​Treating 8 Common Aches And Pains With Heat Or Cold Compress

  • The most basic treatment for common aches and pains is the application of hot or cold compress.
  • In theory, heat treatments stimulate blood flow, while cold treatments reduce inflammation and help control the pain.
  • Doctors recommend hot treatment for chronic injuries, while cold treatment is recommended for acute injuries.

Cold Compress: Acute Back Injuries

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Cold compress is the recommended treatment for acute injuries to the back (injuries that has occurred within the last 48 hours, usually from sudden trauma). Cold compress is the recommended treatment for acute injuries, to reduce inflammation and control pain, explained Dr. Neel Anand, clinical professor of surgery and director of spine trauma at Cedars-Sinai Spine Center in Los Angeles, California. “Doctors recommend applying ice to the area for 20 minutes at a time during the first two or three days in order to decrease inflammation and pain.”

Hot Compress: Chronic Back Pain

Chronic injuries differ from acute injuries, Dr. Anand said. Hot compress is the recommended treatment for sore muscles and joint pain, which are typical of chronic injuries. “People who suffer from chronic back pain without inflammation can find relief with a warm bath,” he added.

Hot Compress: Menstrual Cramps

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Heat application is recommended for menstrual cramps. The heat stimulates circulation and blood flow to the uterus, which could provide immediate relief. However, additional research is required for validation, said Dr.  Yvonne Bohn, ob-gyn at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “For menstrual cramps, we typically recommend heat either from a bath or heating pad to the pelvic area for menstrual pain opposed to ice,” she said.

Hot Compress: Joint Pain

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Heat is recommended for chronic injuries. The timing of application is important. Heat application before physical activities prepares the tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints, explained Dr. Luga Podesta, director of sports medicine at St. Charles Orthopedics in Port Jefferson, New York. “As a general rule, I recommend heating a joint such as the knee or ankle before exercise, competition, or therapy,” he said.

Cold Compress: Sprained Ankle

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Sprains are common injuries to the wrists, knees, and ankles that causes bleeding and inflammation. “Ankle sprains are acute injuries to the ligaments that provide support and stability to the ankle joint,” said Dr. Ken Jung, foot and ankle surgeon at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, California. The cold decreases inflammation and provide numbing relief in targeted areas.

Hot and Cold Compress: Arthritis

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Doctors recommend both heat and cold treatments to reduce inflammation and ease the pain that comes with arthritis. The heat stimulates circulation in blood vessels to control pain. The cold treatments, on the other hand, contributes a numbing sensation and reduce inflammation. These treatments require “trial and error” to figure out which combination is most suitable for your condition. 

Cold Compress: Post-Workout Muscle Soreness

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Cold compress is recommended for post-workout soreness because it decreases inflammation. The opposite is true for heat application. For these reasons, this treatment is not recommended for injuries that show signs of inflammation. Do not use ice longer than 20 minutes at a time. 

Cold Compress: Torn Ligament

Cold compress is recommended for tearing or over-stretching of ligaments, Dr. Podesta said.  “Typically I will recommend application of ice or submersion in an ice bath for 15 minutes every two to three hours for the first 24 to 36 hours after an injury,” he added. Cold treatment reduces blood flow to the area, which limits inflammation and controls pain.

Source: The Healthy


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