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Heat therapy or cold therapy?

We've all suffered from sore muscles in some form or another and I'm sure we've all been handed a bag of frozen peas or a hot water bottle to soothe and ease the pain. But what's the best therapy: hot or cold? Among the many different treatments for the symptoms of muscular pains like medication, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) or massage therapy, heating or chilling the muscles are actually the two simplest ways to relieve painful muscles and are incredibly effective at doing so.

Heat therapy:

Applying heat to an inflamed and swollen area will help to relax sore and tight muscles. Not only will the heat encourage the muscle to relax, but it will also promote better blood flow and circulation in order to eliminate lactic acid waste build-up. Many people find that heat therapy is more effective than cold therapy for sore joints caused by arthritis - in fact many studies have shown that heat therapy can be more effective with decreasing pain than oral analgesics and ibuprofen.

  • Soak the area in hot water - not boiling
  • Use a heated paraffin wax treatment
  • Apply a warm compress or hot water bottle to the affected area
  • Use heat pads or heat wraps like ThermaCare Heat Wraps that relax and soothe muscles with a consistent delivery of comfortable heat. With 8 hours of heat while you wear and 8 hours of relief after use, you can find a ThermaCare Heat Wrap that is designed for your specific area of pain.

Cold therapy:

With a swollen and inflamed muscle or joint, the first thing you need to do is to try and reduce blood flow to the area, which will in turn reduce swelling and slow down the pain messages that are being transmitted to the brain. This is best achieved through chilling the muscle in a variety of ways:

  • Apply a cold compress directly to the inflamed area. This should be held in place for at least 20 minutes every 4-6 hours over the period of at least 3 days
  • Soak the area with very cold water - not freezing cold
  • Apply a chemical cold pack
  • Use ThermaCare Cold Wraps that deliver a constant, comfortable cooling sensation without the icy shock of an ice pack.