Skip to main content

Don’t Reach for that Heating Pad!

If you’ve ever had a muscle strain or achy back, you probably did what most of us do; reach for a heating pad. It feels good. It feels comforting. But, did you know that it may be the wrong thing to do?

Whenever the body experiences trauma or some type of injury, a complex set of reactions occurs called the Metabolic Response. The metabolic response is a complex interaction between many body systems in an effort to restore physical health.

In many cases the affected area experiences inflammation, stiffness, and swelling. Because the use of heat therapy is comforting to most of us, we tend to reach for it first. However, while it may relax the muscles (thereby easing pain a bit), heat therapy does nothing to address the swelling associated with your body’s metabolic response to trauma. As a result, inflammation increases once the heat is removed and in many cases the pain returns even worse than before.

This is why my first choice for treating pain if cold therapy (Cryo-Therapy). It is a drug free war to reduce painful inflammation while allowing the body to heal itself at a more rapid pace. For example; Cold therapy is 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.

I think the best way to ice an injury is to use a high quality ice pack that conforms to the body part being iced. If you can’t afford products like ColdOne Cold Therapy Wraps, my preferred option would be to find gel or clay filled cold packs at your local drug store. You can also get good results from a bag of frozen peas or a simple zip-lock bag of ice.

Take care to use a cloth between you and the ice and never use ice therapy for longer than 30 minutes at a time. I find you can get excellent results in only 20 minutes followed by 20 minutes off, and 20 minutes on again. This therapy works best when used within the first 24 hours of an injury.

Once your inflammation is reduced, you can alternate heat with cold, to further increasing circulation to enhance healing and relieve pain.  Alternating application of heat and cold is sometimes called a vascular flush because the heat expands the blood vessels, and the cold constricts them, causing a flushing action.

Try alternating a hot shower with a cold one, a cold plunge after a sauna, or a series of hot and cold towels applied to an area, like and achy back or sore shoulders. The general time ratio for hot and cold applications is three to one; three minutes of heat to one minute of cold. However, always end with the cold application.



Precautions
Before you go off to try this therapy out I must give you a few caveats. Do not use ice or any very cold applications if you have Raynaud’s disease, peripheral vascular disease, peripheral neuropathy, hypersensitivity to cold, or reduced skin sensations. Diabetics should always use caution when applying ice to their skin. Also be careful with heat applications to avoid burning. Watch the degree of heat of an application and how it feels against your skin. And, if you experience any deformity or inability to use a limb within the first 24 hours of using cold therapy, consult your physician immediately.

All that said, using cold therapy can give you a great advantage over pain and recovery time. So, next time you experience a trauma, be sure to reach for the ice first. You may find you might never need the heating pad again.

As Always - Enjoy Your Life!

John Aaron Villarreal


The Legal Stuff: The content and information on this site is not intended to diagnose,
cure, treat or prevent disease. Please consult your physician
prior to starting any exercise or diet program.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Benefits of Regular Massage Sessions

Once people discover the many joys and benefits of massage, a common question arises—“How often should I schedule my massage sessions?”

Of course, there is no set answer, but studies indicate that massage at regular intervals is most beneficial to your overall health.

In a Newsweek article entitled “The Magic of Touch,” the advantages of frequent massage are considered. The following excerpts help to answer the question, “How often?”

“A weekly massage may seem an indulgence, but new research suggests it can have major health benefits...

“Since instituting a program of massage, job-specific exercises and ergonomics in 1990, the Virginia-based company [Wampler Foods] has cut repetitive-stress injuries by 75 percent...

“From assembly lines to corporate headquarters, Americans are discovering the magic of massage. At Boeing and Reebok, headaches, back strain and fatigue have all fallen since the companies started bringing in massage therapists...

Doctors have started prescribing massage …

Should You Take Supplements?

Often I am asked about supplements and their role in a healthy diet. My take is that while vitamins and minerals are essential to life, the human body cannot self sustain this requirement. Therefore, it is imperative that we eat a well-rounded, low fat diet in order to obtain an adequate variety and supply.

Unfortunately, Americans have become infatuated with supplementation. Mega-dosing has become a common practice for both athletes trying to improve their performances and the “average Jane or Joe” trying to compensate for inadequate nutrition.

Research indicates supplementation is ineffective in improving athletic performance in a well-nourished adult. That’s to say if you are eating well, taking additional doses of supplements won’t give you an edge.

In fact, excessive amounts of fat soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D, E and K) may prove toxic since they are stored in the body and not easily excreted. Even some water soluble supplements such as vitamin B-12 have been shown to cause toxi…

What To Do When You’re Chronically Stressed

Of all the modern-day ailments that seem to affect us, none is more pervasive than stress. Everywhere you turn, there are factors lurking to redirect you from your peaceful pursuit of happiness and lock you in the clutches of “stress.”

What exactly is stress—and what more insidious effects does it cause? The dictionary defines stress as “great pressure or force; strain.” In today’s world, we think of stress as the result of too much pressure laid upon us by life, causing mental worry or anguish. This, in turn, manifests itself in tight neck and shoulders, headaches, nervous stomach, etc. But these physical and mental conditions are really only the beginning.

Studies show that stressful situations can develop into more threatening health conditions. For instance:

A sudden or unexpected stressor can activate your adrenal glands, which sends adrenaline and other hormones into your bloodstream. This brings about an increase in your breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and blood flow to…