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Heat Therapy Vs. Cold Therapy

R. Douglas Orr, MD, FRCSC, Orthopaedic Surgeon with the Cleveland Clinic Spine Institute at Lutheran Hospital in Cleveland, OH advises that "A good general rule - if you are unsure whether heat or cold would be better, is to ask yourself, Does it make your back pain feel better when you apply it? If you feel better, then it is working." Maybe that's not the scientific answer you were hoping for, but it's the best medical advice available - trust your body to tell you what works best for you and if you still aren't sure, contact your doctor. Elizabeth Quinn, writing for About.com, explains: "There are two basic types of injuries: acute and chronic. Acute injuries are sudden injuries that occur immediately (or within hours) and cause pain (possibly severe pain). Most often acute injuries result from some sort of impact or trauma such as a fall, sprain, or strain. Chronic injuries, on the other hand, have lingered or even worsened with time. They can be subtle and slow to develop. They sometimes come and go, and may cause dull pain or soreness. They are often the result of overuse, but sometimes develop when an acute injury is not properly treated and doesn't heal." Chronic pain can also be caused by diseases such as arthritis, fibromyalgia or degenerative disc disease in the spine. Cold therapy is recommended as part of the "RICE" protocol (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate) during the first 24-48 hours after minor injuries or medical procedures because it reduces swelling and pain. Ice causes blood vessels to narrow and limits internal bleeding at the injury site to reduce tissue damage. Apply cold therapy to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes at a time, several times a day. Ice It!® provides the perfect solution to cold therapy with gentle compression, making it easier for you to just find a comfortable position to elevate and rest. Since you don't have to fuss with holding a cold, slippery, drippy bag of ice in place, and you don't have to jump up to change it every few minutes, you get much more benefit, rest and relief. Meanwhile, the Ice It!® Cold COMFORT therapy system works to improve the condition causing pain - a combination providing maximum effectiveness. Cold therapy is also helpful in treating some overuse injuries or chronic pain in athletes. An athlete who has chronic knee pain that increases after running may want to ice the injured area after each run to reduce or prevent inflammation. The best way to ice an injury is with a flexible ice pack like Ice It!® that it conforms to the body part being iced, while the soft fabric of Ice It® Cold Therapy Systems protects your skin from the direct contact with a frozen pack. Heat is generally used for chronic injuries or chronic pain. Sore, stiff, nagging muscle or joint pain is ideal for the use of heat therapy. Athletes with chronic pain or injuries may use heat therapy before exercise to increase the elasticity of joint connective tissues and to stimulate blood flow. Heat can also help relax muscle spasms, or muscles that have just tightened up from overuse. Moist heat is best, like the moist heat provided by a Thermophore® Deep-Heat Pack. The Thermophore® name has long been known for providing convenient, effective, deep-penetrating moist heat to help relieve all types of pain, muscle spasm and stiffness. It reaches much higher temperatures than ordinary heating pads, and is even classified as a medical device by the FDA. There is no need to add any water to the unit - atmospheric moisture is captured by the special fleece cover and released when the intense heat is activated. Because of the higher levels of heat needed to be truly effective, the unit is provided with a special switch that lets users constantly control the level of heat, and will shut off if they become drowsy or inattentive.

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