Treating Pain with Heat and Cold
Treating Pain with Heat and Cold

At the exact moment that you injure yourself, your misinformation and ignorance make you panic and search Google for the ideal treatment for a muscle injury. Do you have to apply cold or heat? Ice or cream? We understand that many doubts arise, so today we are going to clear them so that you can recover 100% of your injury. In the same way, the first thing you should do is go to the doctor to make sure of the seriousness.

How does cold and heat affect muscles?

It is necessary to understand how temperature influences our body in order to differentiate the concepts more easily. Both the cold and the heat produce different physiobiochemical reactions: the cold is usually applied instantaneously when suffering an injury or a blow; however, heat is used in long-term injuries, although there are always exceptions.

Both temperatures positively affect to reduce the pain and the muscular spasm thanks to the slowing down of the metabolism. The cold produces a greater relaxation and diminution of the sanguineous flow, favoring to reduce the inflammation and the edema. However, the heat also favorably influences the relaxation of the muscles, increases blood flow and helps in the healing of the lesion. Of course, if the injury is recent, increasing the flow can increase inflammation and edema.

When should heat be applied?

Lo recomendable es usar el calor en lesiones articulares o musculares a largo plazo. La temperatura alta provoca la dilatación de los vasos sanguíneos, aumenta el flujo y el oxígeno local, por lo que a una lesión reciente no le conviene en absoluto. En cambio, sí es bastante positiva para contracturas musculares a largo plazo o dolores articulares crónico.

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In general, we can say that heat should be applied to injuries that have not been caused by a blow, such as herniated discs or arthritis.

The local heat is usually applied by electric blankets or sacks that we heat in the microwave; in any case it is a good idea to use hot water bags, as over time it can cool down and be counterproductive. You must also take special care not to cause burns, so it is recommended to apply heat for up to 20 minutes.

And the cold?

The cold should be applied in ice packs, cold cloths or gels, taking care not to cause skin burns. It is advised to use it locally when we have just received a blow, a sprain or a pull, for no more than 20 minutes. It is important that we do not exceed time, not only because we can damage our skin, but because it can increase the dilation of the vessels and increase inflammation.

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