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Heat and Cold Therapy

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Heat and cold therapy are often recommended to help relieve an aching pain that results from muscle or joint damage. Basic heat therapy, or thermotherapy can involve the use of a hot water bottle, pads that can be heated in a microwave, or a warm bath. For cold therapy, or cryotherapy, a water bottle filled with cold water, a pad cooled in the freezer, or cool water can be used. In some cases, alternating heat and cold may help, as it will greatly increase blood flow to the injury site.

Here are some key points about cold and heat treatment:

  • Cold treatment reduces inflammation by decreasing blood flow. Apply within 48 hours after an injury.
  • Heat treatment promotes blood flow and helps muscles relax. Use for chronic pain.
  • Alternating heat and cold may help reduce exercise-induced muscle pain.
  • Never use extreme heat, and never put ice directly on the skin.