Hot and cold baths are the most effective ways to give the body a more therapeutic experience. In fact, hot and cold therapy has been around for centuries and used by many people in different parts of the world. The therapy is known for its effectiveness in treating pain and inflammation. Those who practice it also use it in improving range of motion, especially for those who have injured body segments and joints.
The result is your ability to participate quicker than anticipated to full rehabilitative activities after your injury. Numerous physical therapists and chiropractors also use hot and cold therapy to treat their injured patients.
Heat and Cold Therapy and Its Benefits
Heat therapy comes in two types – the dry and the moist heat. The two types aim to give patients a warm temperature, instead of hot. The dry heat therapy (also known as conducted heat therapy) makes use of dry heating packs and heating pads as sources of heat. Many prefer to use it because it is easy to apply. Moist heat, also called convection heat, has for its heat sources things, like hot baths, moist heating packs, and steamed towels. It is a bit more effective than the first type. In addition, applying it requires less time while producing similar results.
Here are some of the actual benefits you can gain from heat therapy:
Reduces muscle spams
If you often experience pain caused by muscle spasms, then consider applying heat therapy. For arm, shoulder, and neck spasms, it would be best to use a heated pillow or wrap as such can gently relax your muscles, thereby preventing spasms. The therapy applies heat, which forces muscle relaxation even if you do not take any medication.
Reduces muscle stiffness
With heat therapy, your muscles will receive a warm sensation that can help relieve the stiffness. Combine this therapy with gradual stretching and you will notice the stiffness suddenly drifting away while also promoting ease of movements.
Increases blood flow
What’s so good about heat therapy is that it increases the flow of blood within your body. This is extremely helpful if you have an injury or experiencing pain. With better blood flow, you can expect to heal from your injury faster. Just make sure to apply heat on the affected area.
Lessens muscle tension and stress
You can expect heat therapy to work in relieving muscle tension and stress, especially if you combine its application with an aromatherapy wrap. For instance, you can try heat wraps with lavender scents as they are effective due to their ability to offer calmness.
Helps treat chronic injuries
It is possible because of the ability of the heat to relax tight, aching, and injured muscles. In addition, it also improves the elasticity of your tendons and ligaments. You can also use heat therapy before exercising if you have a chronic injury as it aids in warming up your muscles while boosting flexibility.
Regardless of the kind of heat therapy you use, you can expect it to work in offering the benefits mentioned above as it improves your blood flow and circulation to a specific area because of the increased temperature. Increased temperature applied on the affected area can help boost muscle flexibility while also soothing discomfort. It also works in relaxing and soothing your muscles and healing damaged tissues. In addition, it minimizes congestion in tissues while also healing other health complaints, like arthritis and muscle strains and sprains.
Cold therapy, which is also otherwise called cryotherapy, on the other hand, works by applying cold temperature to any affected area through various means, including the use of ice packs, coolant sprays, frozen gel packs, ice baths, and ice massage. Some therapists also make use of cryostretching, which involves the use of cold temperature in reducing muscle spasms when stretching. There is also what we call as cryokinetics, which involves the combination of active exercise and cold treatment. It is particularly helpful in treating ligament sprays.
Here are some of the health benefits that the cold therapy can offer:
The application of cold temperature on any body part can increase adiponectin, which refers to a protein that aids in preventing inflammation. It can minimize the inflammatory response usually present in environments with typical temperature.
Heals injury and speeds up the recovery process
Cold therapy reduces blood flow, muscle spasms, inflammation, metabolic demand, and swelling. With that, you can expect the faster healing process for all injured body parts and muscles.
Regulates blood sugar level
Exposure to cold temperature is a huge help in improving your body’s response to insulin. The result is that it can clear glucose from your blood faster. Just a simple cold bath can, therefore, help in lowering your blood glucose while also increasing your sensitivity to insulin.
Strengthens your immune system
Another health benefit of the application of cold temperature to your body is a strengthened immune system. It actually serves as a mild workout for your nervous system, which you can then expect to adapt and strengthen.
Cold compression therapy can be expected to offer more effective pain relief than other alternative and popular interventions. The application of cold temperature alone is even seen as helpful in minimizing the pain usually linked to migraine attacks.
If you are still wondering how cold therapy works, then take note that it usually does so by decreasing the flow of blood in a specific area. It can result in a significant reduction in swelling and inflammation triggering pain, especially in your tendon or joint. It also works in reducing nerve activities temporarily, offering immediate pain relief. Furthermore, it provides better coverage, especially when it comes to healing.
Specialized wraps, for instance, have a better coverage than simple ice packs. You can expect these wraps to conform to your body while also having more uniform contact, thereby allowing the therapeutic cold temperature to reach all damaged and injured tissues and muscles.
Hot and cold therapy can indeed offer several therapeutic and health benefits to those who decided to try it out. You can even switch between hot and cold therapy, especially if your goal is to manage pain caused by arthritis and injury. The good thing about both these treatments is that they are easy and quick to apply so using them is definitely hassle-free.