Most people, after a hard day at work or in the gym, will turn to a warming therapy to soothe soreness and aches. Warmth is comforting and it feels good on painful areas of the body, but it might not be the best choice in all situations. Sometimes, a cooling therapy, or alternating hot and cold, could be the best answer for your body. Let’s take a look at the best times to use each.
When is it best to use heat? A warming therapy is most effectively used for stressed areas of the body, such as sore muscles from sitting at a desk too long, or on achy feet after a long day of standing or walking. Heat is wonderful when used for muscle spasms and cramps, as it can help the tissues to relax, and provides fast relief for these painful occasions. This application is a good way to relax the spasms and chronic aches in the lower back and neck that so many people are plagued with. Heat should be used for 15-20 minutes at a time, so as pleasant as it may feel, take a break for at least 30 minutes before another heat session.
On the other hand, ice is best used when there is inflammation and injury, or swelling to an area. Inflammation is a natural healing process, so we don’t want to impede it, but the ice can help minimize the discomfort and ultimately help to heal the injury faster. The types of injuries ice, or cold packs, are best for would be sprains or strains, pulled muscles, or bruises. Apply cold packs or ice with a layer of fabric as a barrier to the affected area for 15-20 minutes, and wait 30 minutes if you would like to repeat the application.
For serious athletes, a great way to follow up a hard workout is to alternate heat and cold, such as a 10 minute ice bath followed by 10 minutes in a sauna, repeated 3 to 5 times. This accomplishes a sort of pumping action in the lymph and in the blood vessels, as they constrict and widen more than they would without the drastic change in temperature. There is often a little more soreness immediately after, but recovery can be much faster. Performance often improves during subsequent workouts as well, more than if the alternating temperature therapy hadn’t been used.
It’s important to remember that if you’re already cold and don’t want to use ice, or if you’re already hot and don’t want to use heat, then don’t. Making yourself significantly more uncomfortable may actually make your pain worse, and might actually slow healing.
Pleasant Touch Massage