Cold pack or heating pad? What works best for athletic sports injuries
You are running or doing a back bend or just playing catch in your backyard and then your back clenches, your knee twangs or your ankle screams.
Most of these minor injuries from exercise can be treated at home. But, when should you apply heat and when should you use cold?
The general rule is to use heat to loosen up muscles before exercise and cold to reduce swelling after an injury.
When to use heat
Before starting your workout, heat is a great way to warm up cold tendons and joints and inelastic muscles. Heat causes blood vessels to open up, allowing more blood into the area. This provides additional oxygen to power the muscles, and allows an athlete to get up to speed more quickly.
Pre-heating can also help you avoid injuries from exercising with cold muscles. It can be especially helpful if you're dealing with a chronic problem, like a chronic rotator cuff injury or tendonitis, because the heat loosens up stiff scar tissue.
Heat packs and heating pads are easy ways to apply heat, we recommend placing a layer of fabric between your body and the heat source to reduce the risk of burns. There is no recommended time period for applying heat -- your body should tell you when it feels warmed up and ready to go.
When to use cold
Immediately after an injury and in the following weeks is the best time to apply cold. To start the healing process, the immune system increases blood flow and causes inflammation. However, "the body tends to go a little bit overboard, so we get a lot of swelling and pain as a result,".
Cold causes blood vessels to constrict, which restricts excess blood flow and brings down the swelling. Cold is also great for numbing pain and can help get you back to exercising sooner.
After a really intense workout or if hitting the gym for the first time in a while, we recommend that applying cold can also help reduce inflammation and muscle soreness.
Using our sports therapy wrap that has been in the freezer for a few hours will help reduce the swelling.
Traditional wisdom says to apply a cold pack for 20 minutes on followed by 20 minutes off. We recommend that icing periodically throughout the day, perhaps while sitting at your desk at work, is the best way to keep swelling down, especially if you can elevate the injured area.
Why does heat help with pain?
This process increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, helping to heal the damaged tissue. Heat stimulates the sensory receptors in the skin, which means that applying heat to the lower back will decrease transmissions of pain signals to the brain and partially relieve the discomfort.
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Sports Therapy Wrap
Sports Therapy Wrap: The heat wrap/heat pack used by therapists. This is a great gift for everybody. Extra large size, weight and penetrating moist heat provides comfort for those who suffer with sports injuries, lower back pain, muscle pain and shoulder pain. Infused with our signature anti-stress aromatherapy blend of lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary and cloves. Comes with an adjustable belt to hold the wrap firmly in place. Extra long heat holding – 1 hour or longer. Contains our anti-stress blend. Use warm or cold to assist with the relief of aches, pains and stress. The perfect stress relieving gift. (10″ X 26″). The cover comes in black velvet with an embroidered Warm Buddy logo.Our most popular heat pack is used for fast natural pain relief.
The sports therapy wrap is the most effective heat therapy product that can maintain it's heat at the proper temperature. "Warm" is the proper temperature. Patients should not have their heat source be hot to the point of burning the skin. The desired effect is for the heat to penetrate down into the muscles. Simply increasing the temperature of the skin will do little to decrease discomfort.
In many instances, the longer the heat is applied, the better.This where the sports therapy wrap will pay dividends with it's long lasting heat. The duration that one needs to apply the heat, though, is based on the type of and/or magnitude of the injury. For very minor back tension, short amounts of heat therapy may be sufficient (such as 15 to 20 minutes). For more intense injuries, longer sessions of heat may be more beneficial (such as 30 minutes to 2 hours, or more).
Warm and Cold Therapy
For both these therapies it is always handy to have 2 heat packs available for immediate applications , one for warmth and the other to keep in the freezer for cold therapy applications..
How Heat Therapy Works
Many episodes of lower back muscle strain result from strains and over-exertions, creating tension in the muscles and soft tissues around the lower spine. As a result, this restricts proper circulation and sends pain signals to the brain.
Muscle spasm in the lower back can create sensations that may range from mild discomfort to excruciating lower back pain. Heat therapy can help relieve pain from the muscle spasm and related tightness and lower back pain relief.
Using the Sports Therapy Wrap will help you relieve lower back pain and muscle tension.
Heat therapy application can help provide lower back pain relief through several mechanisms:
- Heat therapy dilates the blood vessels of the muscles surrounding the lumbar spine. This process increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, helping to heal the damaged tissue.
- Heat stimulates the sensory receptors in the skin, which means that applying heat to the lower back will decrease transmissions of pain signals to the brain and partially relieve the discomfort.
- Heat application facilitates stretching the soft tissues around the spine, including muscles, connective tissue, and adhesion's. Consequently, with heat therapy, there will be a decrease in stiffness as well as injury, with an increase in flexibility and overall feeling of comfort. Flexibility is very important for a healthy back.
How cold therapy Works to Relieve Pain
Cold therapy can help provide relief for back pain in a number of ways:
Keep a Warm Buddy heat pack in your freezer for these applications:
- Cold therapy application slows the inflammation and swelling that occurs after injury. Most back pain is accompanied by some type of inflammation, and addressing the inflammation helps reduce the pain
- Cold therapy numbs sore tissues (providing pain relief similar to a local anesthetic)
- Cold therapy application slows the nerve impulses in the area, which interrupts the pain-spasm reaction between the nerves
- Cold therapy decreases tissue damage
- The massage adds the beneficial effects of gentle manipulation of the soft tissues
Cold therapy is most effective if it is applied as soon as possible after the injury occurs, usually within 24 to 48 hours. The cold makes the veins in the tissues contract, reducing circulation. Once the cold is removed, the veins overcompensate and dilate and blood rushes into the area. The infusion of blood in the area brings with it the necessary nutrients to help the injured back muscles, ligaments and tendons to heal.
From warm compresses to hot water bottles of decades past, heat has long been a home remedy for menstrual cramps. But it turns out that science supports heat as an effective treatment for the pain. Using our warming pillow or our body wrap will help reduce the pain.
When you apply heat to the lower abdomen or lower back, uterine contractions are relaxed, which in turn means less pain.
Additionally, a 2018 review noted that heat increases blood flow, which can also reduce pain.
Therapies on how to treat lower back pain
- Warm therapy for aches and pains
- Cold therapy for fresh injuries and swelling
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Warm Buddy make the best heat packs for relieving back pain and stress
Warm Buddy Company creates products that promote relaxation and provide natural relief from aches, pains and stress. They have been following this philosophy since 1995, while creating their world famous aromatherapy heat wraps, heat packs, eye pillows and the original warm up plush animals.
Warm Buddy rejuvenating heat therapy products have become recognized for their superior quality and long heat holding ability. Warm Buddy heat wraps and heat packs are safe, easy to use and highly effective , also available in unscented. Simply heat in the microwave or cool in the freezer as desired.
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