Heat promotes blood flow and is typically considered a pre-activity treatment. Cold, on the other hand, reduces swelling and can help relieve pain. How to use them depends on the type of injury.
Injuries can be divided into acute and chronic based on the following characteristics:
Whether chronic or acute, each has their own set of rules when it comes to heat and ice.
Sometimes, if it’s simply a matter of relief, hot or cold will work. Muscle aches and spasms; stiff, swollen joints; hand, wrist, finger, neck, knee, and back pain — they all can be mitigated with hot or cold treatments. For other injuries, it’s imperative to be specific — e.g., never treat an acute injury with heat.
The Marshfield Clinic Health System recommends treating acute injuries with ice. Ice packs reduce swelling and provide pain relief. They should be applied infrequent, 20-minute sessions during the first two days following an injury. Allow the area to become numb from the ice. However, always put a thin towel between the skin and pack to prevent frostbite. Wait until sensation and skin tone have returned to normal before reapplying.
Chronic injuries can also benefit from ice. Post workout ice baths, or packs to treat specific areas, can help prevent the swelling and pain associated with chronic muscle and joint conditions.
Hot pads, or a hot wet towel, can help warm up chronic injuries. The heat-induced blood circulation loosens up muscles and joints, thereby extending their range of motion, and comfort level. Just like with ice, never apply heat for longer than 20 minutes at a time. Keep in mind that heating pads should never be used while sleeping.
Methods for applying heat and ice range from the creative to the designated. The following options are convenient and affordable — you may even already have some.
Unfortunately, heat and ice can only do so much when it comes to keeping your body in motion. Whether it be an injury or the expected soreness of a new workout routine, there’s more to pain relief than hot and cold.
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Oral pain medications are not always the best solutions for pain management
Men’s Health reports that a survey from the US Pain Foundation that more than 90 percent of Americans use over-the-counter (OTC) oral medications to manage pain. The problem with and the danger from these pain relievers is that they’re so convenient that we tend to reach for them for any kind of pain instead of reserving them for situations where they’ll do the most good.
There are better ways than stretching to manage pain from muscle soreness
Evidence suggests that stretching offers little or no relief for muscle pain. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reviewed 12 studies, concluding that stretching, whether conducted before, after, or before and after exercise, does not produce clinically important reductions in delayed-onset muscle soreness in healthy adults. Another study by USA Track & Field concluded that stretching offers no protection from injury to runners during routine training, either.
7 tips to manage pain before exercise
Sore muscles are good. They’re a sign of improvement; that you’ve pushed yourself physically — and mentally. It can also be a false roadblock.
However painful it may be, muscle soreness, typically shouldn’t prevent you from working out.