When Not To Use
There are certain cases where heat therapy should not be used. If the area in question is either bruised or swollen , it may be better to use cold therapy. Heat therapy also shouldnt be applied to an area with an open wound.
People with certain pre-existing conditions should not use heat therapy due to higher risk of burns or complications due to heat application. These conditions include:
- deep vein thrombosis
- multiple sclerosis
If you have either heart disease or hypertension, ask your doctor before using heat therapy. If you are pregnant, check with your doctor before using saunas or hot tubs.
Heat therapy is often most beneficial when used for a good amount of time, unlike cold therapy, which needs to be limited.
Minor stiffness or tension can often be relieved with only 15 to 20 minutes of heat therapy.
Moderate to severe pain can benefit from longer sessions of heat therapy like warm bath, lasting between 30 minutes and two hours.
How To Apply Cold Therapy
Cold treatments are most effective when applied to the back of the pelvis where your sciatic nerve is located. Cold therapy can be practiced using ice packs, frozen gel packs, or even frozen vegetable bags. These treatments should be used three times a day for 15 to 20 minutes.
Patients with wide areas of pain, such as the back, find ice massage to be especially beneficial. Ice massage can be done at home. Simply freeze water in a paper cup, then cut off the top half of the cup to uncover the ice. Next, have a partner rub the ice in circular motions on painful areas for a few minutes or until it becomes numb.
After a few days, a majority of your pain and inflammation should subside and you can begin heat treatment.
Is Heat Or Cold Therapy Better For Sciatica Pain
Dr. Bhavik Sheth, PT, DPT, CSCS, SFMA
Dr. Bhavik Sheth, PT, DPT, CSCS, SFMA is a physical therapist and the co-founder of the Elite Movement Initiative, a physical therapy group. He earned his D…
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Sciatica is a unique type of nerve pain that begins in the lower back and extends through the lower extremities.
People with sciatica often experience sharp low back, hip, and leg pain as well as burning sensations, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness. This level of discomfort is alarming and calls for the assistance of an ice pack or warm towel, but which is actually fit to alleviate your pain?
In this article, we will discuss whether heat therapy, cold therapy, or a combination of both is best for sciatica.
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What Is Ice Therapy
On the opposite side of the spectrum is ice therapy, which works by slowing the blood flow to an affected area of the body. By doing this, it can numb the pain that comes with swelling and inflammation, as well as provide significant relief from nerve pain.
Typically, people who are using ice therapy to manage their pain will apply it with an ice pack of some kind, or they may use an ice bath. You can also use ice massages and coolant sprays. While you can buy premade ice packs to keep on hand in case of injury, they are simple to make in a pinch. If you dont have an ice pack handy, the easiest way to apply cold therapy is to grab a bag of frozen vegetables from the freezer or fill a plastic bag with ice cubes. Voila!
When To Use A Cold Compress Or Ice Pack To Treat Your Rotator Cuff
Cold compression works best to relieve pain, swelling and inflammation for new injuries, re-injury and during immediate post surgery recovery. Cold therapy should also be used during the first 24 – 72 hours of treatment, combined with resting your injury.
If you’ve been suffering for some time with a chronic rotator cuff injury you should only use cold after activity causes you more pain or triggers more inflammatory response symptoms .. This would be when your shoulder starts to hurt at the end of the day after you’ve been using your arm for normal, daily tasks the entire day. When used at this time cold compression becomes a natural / organic pain reliever, treating the site where you feel the pain.
Sometimes we feel pain while doing a certain activity – should you still use cold? Too much cold therapy can reduce your ability to heal correctly, because cold is a short term pain reliever not a deep tissue healer.
Cold Therapy slows nerve and tissue function – reducing swelling that blocks blood vessels from doing their job.
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What If You Suffer From Chronic Back Pain
So far, we have spoken about using heat or ice for backache that occurs after an injury. However, some people suffer from chronic back pain. What can you do?
Unfortunately, there isnt a simple answer or even the right answer. It most likely depends on what works for you best.
Ideally, you should find a balance between heat and cold therapy. This happens with a ton of trial and error. Remember that something that works for someone else may not necessarily work for you.
However, when it comes to exercise, several people suffering from chronic back pain tend to find that heat therapy helps them warm up their muscles beforehand. On the contrary, cold therapy helps with all the inflammation and pain afterward.
If you do suffer from chronic back pain, do keep in mind that using heat or cold therapy are just temporary solutions. Relying on these kinds of self-care solutions could potentially make your pain worse. So, make sure that you are receiving appropriate care from a highly qualified medical professional over and above the heat and cold therapy.
Is Heat Or Cold Better For Nerve Pain
The combination of hot and cold increases the circulation of fresh blood to the area, which may help relieve pain. Hold an ice pack over the affected area for about 15 minutes at a time, three times a day to help reduce inflammation. Heat pads can be applied for a longer period, up to 1 hour, three times a day.
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When Not To Use Heat
Heat is not suitable for all injury types. Any injury that is already hot will not benefit from further warming. These include infections, burns, or fresh injuries.
Heat should not be used if:
- the skin is hot, red or inflamed
- the person has dermatitis or an open wound
- the area is numb
- the person may be insensitive to heat due to peripheral neuropathy or a similar condition
Excessive heat must be avoided.
When cold is applied to the body, the blood vessels contract, vasoconstriction occurs. This means that circulation is reduced, and pain decreases.
Removing the cold causes vasodilation, as the veins expand to overcompensate.
As the blood vessels expand, circulation improves, and the incoming flow of blood brings nutrients to help the injured tissues heal.
Alternating heat and cold can be useful for:
- exercise-induced injury or DOMS
Contrast water therapy uses both heat and cold to treat pain. Studies show that it is more effective at reducing EIMD and preventing DOMS than doing nothing.
A review of studies has suggested that, for elite athletes, CWT is better at reducing muscle pain after exercise compared with doing nothing or resting.
However, the researchers point out that it may not better than other strategies, such as heat treatment, cold treatment, stretching, or compression. They say that more evidence is necessary.
Heat Or Ice For Sciatica
Heat or ice for sciatica are both effective tools for home-based acute nerve pain relief. Heat and ice work well in combination with each other, but should be custom tailored to fit the criteria of each painful complaint.
Heat and ice therapy are free home remedies which have been used for millennia to treat an impossibly huge diversity of health conditions. Since there are no risks, when used sensibly, heat and ice are both valuable additions to a combined care approach to pain management.
This dialog centers on providing patients a simple guide to using heat and ice as part of their own sciatica care regimen.
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Treating Pain With Heat And Cold
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We treat everything from arthritis to pulled muscles to inflammation with ice packs or heating pads. Treating pain with hot and cold can be extremely effective for a number of different conditions and injuries, and easily affordable. The tricky part is knowing what situations calls for hot, and which calls for cold. Sometimes a single treatment will even include both.
As a general rule of thumb, use ice for acute injuries or pain, along with inflammation and swelling. Use heat for muscle pain or stiffness.
Which Is Better: Heat Or Ice For A Pinched Nerve
Youve probably used heat or ice before on a sprain or a sore muscle. But, if you have a pinched nerve, you know its a different feeling than a sprain or strain. So, you may be wondering which is better for a pinched nerve, heat or ice?
The answer is both. Using heat and ice for a pinched nerve is a good way to reduce swelling, promote fresh blood flow to the area, and relax the surrounding muscles that may be contributing to the pinched nerve. The trick is knowing when to use ice and when to use heat.
Heading to the chiropractor can help a pinched nerve, but many people like to use home remedies if the pain isnt too bad. And the simplest home remedies are all about heat and ice. So, read on to discover how to use heat and ice for a pinched nerve.
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Is It Okay To Put Heat On A Pinched Nerve
Overall, its okay to put heat on a pinched nerve. However, there are times when ice is best, and other times when heat is most beneficial.
The general rule of thumb for a pinched nerve is to use heat only after youve managed to get the pain to subside a little bit. When the pain first flares up, use ice or cold packs before you use heat. And dont apply heat to the area directly after applying ice. Youll want to wait 30 minutes to an hour at least.
For the best results, keep the heat on the affected area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Take a minimum 30-minute break between sessions. If you find that its helping, you can apply moderate heat to an area for up to an hour or more. Extended heat therapy is most beneficial for more severe pain from a pinched nerve. Its almost like spending time in a hot tub you can do it safely if its not too hot.
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How Should I Apply Moist Heat Or Cold Packs To Treat Tmj
It is best that you apply both the ice and heat in combination, rather than just opting for one. Some people get the best relief from TMJ pain by the application of both in combination with a few simple exercises too.
You should start with the application of an ice pack wrapped in a clean cloth to the sides of your face and also your temple area. Wrapping the ice pack helps to prevent the area from being exposed to too much cold by direct contact. This practice reduces the spasms in your jaw muscles and causes numbness. Try applying the cold packs for about 10 minutes.
After the application of ice packs, you should consider doing a few simple stretching exercises like this one by following the steps below
- Put your left thumb under your upper front teeth
- Place both your right index and middle fingers on your lower front teeth
- Using your hands and not your jaw muscles, gently pull your jaw apart.
There are other exercises that your dentist may recommend following the application of an ice pack. If you can, do well to see a physiotherapist to help with the exercises.
After the stretching exercises, you should end with the application of heat to the side of your face. Avoid using heat directly and only use moist heat.
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When Should You Use A Shoulder Tshellz Wrap On Your Shoulder
Circulatory Boost treatments work best to increase blood flow circulation and relieve pain for older injuries, re-injuries and during long-term post surgery recovery.
Circulatory Boost should not be used directly after an injury, as you must wait for swelling to drop. Circulatory Boost treatments should not be started for a least 2 weeks after surgery because inflammation levels will be very high as the healing process starts over again. Any use of a TShellz Wrap® should also be combined with gradual movement to stretch out your shoulder and increase range of motion.
If you have a chronic shoulder injury that keeps getting re-injured you should use a Shoulder TShellz Wrap before activity to loosen up your tissue . This treatment is shown to increase the elasticity of the soft tissue in and around the treatment area, making it more pliable for activity and less likely to re-injure.
Sometimes we feel pain while doing a certain activity – should you still use a TShellz Wrap®? Using a TShellz Wrap in the morning before you start your day or before activity can help to boost blood-flow and reduce risk of further strain or injury. Use cold part-way through your day after you have been active so you can decrease pain and inflammation from the flare up.
Hot Vs Cold For Pain: Whats The Difference
While both temperatures can soothe pain, they do so in different ways. Heat increases blood flow, nutrients, and oxygen to the affected area and, therefore, works to relax tight muscles. Cold lessens pain by reducing inflammation, muscle spasms, and circulation. While reducing circulation sounds bad, its actually a good thing because less circulation means your blood vessels shrink, which then lessens swelling and bleeding.
Lets explore the different kinds of pain and how each respond when heat or cold is introduced:
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The Temperature Rotation Myth
There is a time for rotating heat and ice but addressing sciatic nerve pain is not one of them. While most people believe that switching between hot and cold packs are conducive to pain relief, this is not true. When you are in acute pain, there is simply no reason to apply heat.
Why is this? Think about it. What is sciatic nerve pain? It is pain caused by inflammation. If you accidentally hit your thumb with a hammer and it is red and throbbing, you are going to put cold on it. Cold draws blood away from the injury, which ultimately decreases swelling and provides relief. Heat would bring more blood to the wound, having the opposite effect and increasing swelling.
What Causes Sciatica Pain
Sciatica is caused by the compression of one or more nerve roots in the lumbar spine or sacrum . These nerve roots form the top piece of the sciatic nerve which extends all the way to the big toe, explaining sciaticas radiating pain.
The top portion of the sciatic nerve becomes compressed when it makes contact with another spinal structure, such as an intervertebral disc or bone. Intervertebral discs and spinal bones are commonly misplaced after enduring injuries like disc herniation, bony spurs, or spondylolisthesis , resulting in irritation of spinal nerves.
Regardless of the reason for your sciatic nerve pain, you are probably looking for immediate relief. Your best bet is to contact your doctor or physical therapist. A medical professional can perform the sciatica test to determine if the source of your pain is truly sciatica from there, your doctor will likely prescribe conservative care focused on physical activity and pain managementincluding the use of both cold and heat therapy.
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Dont Use An Ice Pack If
Some people, especially those who have a hard time feeling pain, can damage their skin with an ice pack. Those who suffer from diabetes should use special care with an ice pack, as nerve damage is a side effect, making it hard for them to feel pain.
If youre looking to relieve stiffness in joints or muscles, dont use ice. Instead, use heat!
Consider These Home Remedies To Provide Relief:
*As a reminder, always discuss any questions or concerns with your physician regarding your own health and dietary needs, as the information written should not replace any medical advice.
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