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Pain Relief and Heat

Pain comes in many forms which can be categorized as acute or chronic. As the world turns its attention to non-pharmaceutical pain relief methods, cold and heat are making a comeback. A quick although not all-inclusive rule in chilling or heating pain is that acute pain is treated with cold and chronic responds best to heat. 

How Ice Works to Relive Pain

According to the Cleveland Clinic in their healthessentials webzine, “First of all, do not use heat on acute injuries because that extra heat can increase inflammation and delay proper healing. 

When dealing with injuries, it’s best to predominantly choose ice if the injury is acute (less than 6 weeks old). The chill constricts blood vessels which numbs pain, relieves inflammation, and limits bruising.”

This sage advice is important to remember before applying heat. The adage about applying alternating heat and cold to injuries is time-sensitive. The current thinking is that “fresh” injuries such as sprains, strains, and pulls should be chilled to relieve the pain. Heat plays a part in healing later as the injury ages. 

Pain that responds to ice therapy includes:

  • Headaches – Although heat can relax spasms that may be a contributing factor to the headache
  • Muscle Strains and Sprains while the swelling, inflammation, and tenderness are still present
  • Tendinitis – though the pain may and usually is beyond the six rules, it is caused by inflammation which would indicate ICE.
  • Tendinosis – Pain from this condition can have dual causes, inflammation, and stiffness, ice will aid the pain from inflammation

How Heat Relieves Pain

As the injuries age, the advice from health essentials is, “If you’re dealing with lingering injuries (older than 6 weeks) then it’s okay to use heat. The increased blood flow relaxes tight muscles and relieves aching joints. This is especially helpful to improve range of motion on a joint that maybe isn’t moving as well.” 

Pain from different causes requires different approaches, but the six-week rule is a good one. Pain that responds to heat includes:

  • Arthritis
  • Muscle Strains and Sprains only after the inflammation, swelling, and tenderness is gone
  • Tendinosis – Pain from this condition can have dual causes, inflammation, and stiffness, heat will aid the pain from stiffness 

Whirlpools, Steam Rooms. Saunas for Pain Relief

In sports locker rooms, gyms, and spas amenities include whirlpools, steam rooms, and saunas to unwind and relax muscles. Avid sports participants are also familiar with the ice bath and ice wrap used immediately after a grueling event. 

The average spa or gym clients often use the whirlpools, steam rooms, and saunas to erase mental tensions as well as chronic physical ailments. A 2006 study conducted by researchers, John M Mayer 1, Vert Mooney, Leonard N Matheson, Geetha N Erasala, Joe L Verna, Brian E Udermann, Scott Leggett set out to examine, Continuous low-level heat wrap therapy for the prevention and early phase treatment of delayed-onset muscle soreness of the low back: a randomized controlled trial. The conclusion was, “continuous low-level heat wrap therapy was of significant benefit in the prevention and early phase treatment of low back DOMS.” 

Although this was a small study its results were promising for the effects of the infrared FIT Bodywarp in relieving chronic pain with regular sessions. The all-enveloping infrared heat works directly to penetrate the body and bring relief from chronic pain.

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