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Heat and cold therapy in pain

Both heat and cold can relief pain, know which and how to use these:

Most diseases, minor or major, acute or chronic, trauma or infection, there is one common factor - that is pain. Not only we should treat the disease, but also care the pain. For this in addition to analgesics, the most inexpensive and easily available modes of pain management are application of heat and cold. We should know the specific instances where heat and cold should be used as listed below.

Heat: Some of the common modes to heat therapy are: heat pads, warm baths/shower,  liquid paraffin system, hot water bottles, or warm oils. Heat acts by improving blood circulation and nutritional supply to the affected parts of the body and is best suited for stiff joints and muscle pain. 

Some common ways to apply heat:

  1. A warm shower or bath will ease morning stiffness and pain.
  2. Apply a heating pad on the painful/stiff areas up to 20 minutes - we must use optimal, tolerable heat to avoid skin burns.
  3. Wrap the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes with a moist heat pad.
  4. Warm mineral oils can be applied to the painful joints of hands and legs. We can keep it in place for 15 to 20 minutes before washing it off.
  5. For pain in hand and leg/foot joints, warm liquid paraffin wax can be applied.

Some common ways to apply cold:

Contrary to heat therapy, cold therapy acts by reducing blood flow to the paiful area and numbing the nerve endings, thereby reducing the transmission of pain signal. It works well for acute pain cases like fresh injuries and post-exercise trauma & inflammation.

  1. A cold wrap with ice cubes can be applied to the affected painful area for about 15 to 20 min. It can be repeated if needed.
  2. Alternately, a wet towel can be put in a plastic bag and kept in the freezer for 15 minutes and then used as a cold pack.
  3. The affected joint can be dipped in a bucket of ice-water.
  4. Cold gel packs are available at medical stores - they won't leak, will stay cold longer (when kept in refrigerator) and can be easily wrapped around a joint.

Both heat and cold works in pain, but as rule cold is got acute/recent/injury patients, whereas heat to be applied in chronic cases. Never apply heat in trauma or injury cases.

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