Heat and cold are the two of the most common physical phenomena in the world. Heat is the excessive release of energy of atoms and cold is a condition where atoms loose most of their energy. Enough with the science, in the medical world heat and cold are the most common types of noninvasive and non-addictive pain-relief therapies for muscle and joint pain today. Speaking in layman’s terms, a new injury may cause inflammation and possibly swelling. Ice decreases the blood flow to the injury, thereby decreasing the amount of inflammation and swelling. The pain that recurs after this can be easily treated with heat, which brings the blood to the area thus promoting healing.
Heat works in a number of ways. Firstly, it opens up your blood vessels which in turn increase the blood flow and supply of oxygen and nutrients. This reduces the pain in joints and relaxes sore muscles, ligaments, and tendons. The heat also decreases muscle spasms and increases a person’s range of motion. When one applies superficial heat to the body, it improves the flexibility of tendons and ligaments, reduces muscle spasms, and alleviates pain. Cold on the other hand, restricts blood flow and therefore very helpful in cases of inflammation and swelling. Cold also helps in reducing muscle spasm. Cold therapy is usually used in places where there is a swelling or a bruise.
Dry heat is avoided during this therapy as it may dry the skin and so moist heat is feasible one. It penetrates the skin better. The major mediums of heat therapy are microwavable heat pads, hot water bottles, gel packs, and hot water baths. One should take care that warmth is the aim of this therapy and so the medium should not be too hot to cause an injury or burn. The main method of using the cold therapy is a cold or ice gel pack, ice baths, and cold water immersions.
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