Hot & Cold therapy
The use of hot and cold therapy for pain relief has been used for centuries. Hot and cold therapy can be used for many different painful conditions.
Hot & Cold therapy should be used with your painkillers and not instead of them, unless they are no longer needed.
How can heat therapy help pain?
Heat can help reduce pain and swelling. Certain conditions such as arthritis, back pain, phlebitis, circulatory problems, joint stiffness and aching muscles respond well to heat.
Heat can help your mind and body relax and ease any worries you may have. Joint stiffness is reduced as the fluid in the joints become warmed and allows more movement.
If tissues are warmed, they will stretch more, this stretching can help painful contracted tissues. Muscle stiffness or spasm is also relieved and soothed.
Heat increases blood supply to the area, this can produce a reduction in pain by improving oxygen supply and nutrition to the area and aids in the removal of chemicals that cause pain and swelling.
Heat stimulates large nerve fibres which can interfere with the pain impulses normally transmitted by the smaller nerve fibres.
Heat can distract you, it can draw your attention away from the pain to the warmth instead.
Heat can also encourage the body to produce its own pain killing chemicals.
For heat therapy, you can use a hot bath, a hot wet towel wrap, a hot water bottle, an electric blanket, an electric heat pad, or heat pads that you can warm up in hot water or in a microwave oven.
Do not apply heat therapy to skin that is broken or sore or any areas that you have loss of sensation.
How can cold therapy help pain?
Cold can help reduce pain and swelling. Certain conditions involving joint disease or muscle spasm respond well to cold.
Cold reduces the inflammatory response and oedema / swelling can be reduced. The area where cold is applied can become numbed, this reduces pain impulses along the nerves. Joint stiffness can be reduced as awareness of the stiffness is changed.
The cold can distract your attention away from the pain.
For cold therapy, you can use cold pads, a cold wet towel wrap, ice/frozen peas wrapped up in a protective layer of material (like a tea towel).
Do not use cold therapy to skin that is broken or sore or any areas that you have loss of sensation.
Be careful – you can burn yourself with hot or cold therapy.
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