NYT Science Asks: Should You Treat Muscle Pain With Ice or Heat?

The New York Times recently (Nov 7, 2015) tackled the question of whether to use Ice or Heat for sore muscles.
Acute Injury
Cold therapy, or cryotherapy, is usually recommended immediately after an acute injury, like a severe bruise or sprain. The familiar RICE protocol (Rest – Ice – Compression – Elevation) helps reduce the pain and inflammation these injuries. However, cold therapy loses efficacy after a couple of days. At this point in recovery, applying heat to the area may provide additional relief and recovery.

Delayed Muscle Onset
In contrast to an injury, the lingering muscle pain that emerges some time after vigorous exercise, both heat and cold have been used with significant success in individual cases, but scientific studies comparing the efficacy of treatments have been sparse and inconclusive.

According to the New York Times, a new comparison, published this year in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, looked at muscle damage and pain in 100 people of comparable fitness. After 15 minutes of leg squats, half of the test subjects received either cold OR heat treatment, while half received no treatment at all. The study concluded that both heat and cold appear to be effective in reducing muscle damage, but cold used immediately after exercise or 24 hours later was superior in reducing pain.

The good news, with FrozenPeaz – you don’t have to choose. FrozenPeaz is just as effective for heat therapy as it is for cold therapy.
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Hot vs Cold Therapy – 4 Tips to Help You Decide

Heat Therapy or Cold Therapy

Heat Therapy vs Cold Therapy – 4 Tips to Help You Decide

Confused about when to use heat therapy and when to use cold therapy? You are not alone. The hot vs cold therapy debate can seem complicated. Understanding the benefits of each is key to relieving pain and speeding recovery.

  1. Use Cold Therapy immediately after an injury to reduce inflammation.
  2. Do not use Cold Therapy on stiff muscles or joints.
  3. Use Hot Therapy to relax/sooth sore muscles or to increase range of motion.
  4. Do not use Hot Therapy on an injury that is already warm to the touch.

Although those 4 guidelines are simple ways to determine whether to use hot or cold therapy, there is a lot more science behind the decision.

Some like it COLD

As a general guideline, sudden acute injuries like a sprained ankle, muscle tear, bruise or inflammation should be treated with cold therapy as soon as possible following the injury. Why? When a sudden injury occurs, the surrounding soft tissue often bruises, swells and becomes inflamed. Cold therapy helps to reduce these symptoms. Applying cold therapy to these injuries

  1. Reduces Swelling: Cold therapy constricts the blood vessels and reduces blood flow to the injury. The reduced blood flow limits the amount of fluid that pools around the injury, which prevents or minimizes swelling and bruising.
  2. Relieves Pain: Cold therapy helps to numb the nerve endings, which decreases the pain messages sent to the brain.

Continue to use Cold therapy for 3-5 days following the injury. Find out more about FrozenPeaz® products as part of R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) for treating an injury. Cold packs are also recommended for treating overuse injuries, common in athletes. Apply a cold pack after activity to help control inflammation. An ice pack should not be used before exercise. Which cold pack is best? For years, doctors and medical professionals have recommended using a bag of frozen peas or sweet corn instead of a gel pack or ice. Why? Because the frozen vegetables are able to more easily conform to your injured body part. However, frozen vegetables have a tendency to leak and the packaging was not designed for reuse. FrozenPeaz® products is a superior alternative. It’s different. It’s moldable. An evolutionary new hot and cold pack that uses VirtualPeaz? to maintain flexibility even at 0° F. That’s cold! Adding a compression sleeve like the ProPeaz® wrap to your cold therapy treatment helps to ensure that the cold is evenly distributed. Propose wraps come in joint specific shapes and sizes to ensure the cold penetrates  the injured area with the right degree of compression. For example, if you suffer from runners knee, try wrapping the Large Joint PeazPod™ sports wrap around your knee to relieve pain and reduce inflammation.

Some like it HOT

Sore, stiff muscles are best treated with Hot Therapy because the heat helps to relax and loosen tired muscles. Heat can also be used before exercise to improve mobility by loosening muscles and increasing joint elasticity. Not only do FrozenPeaz® therapy packs provide form-fitting, flexible cold relief, the same pack can be heated to provide hot therapeutic relief for arthritis, muscle spasms, menstrual cramps, and more. Try the Large Joint PeazPod™ sports wrap to relieve lower back pain with therapeutic heat relief. Remember, heat can be used prior to exercise but should not be used immediately after physical activity.

Some go both ways – alternating Hot / Cold Therapy

After the first 3 to 5 days of cold therapy for an acute injury, experts like The Mayo Clinic recommend alternating hot and cold therapy for effective pain relief and recovery from muscle tears, overuse injuries and chronic joint pain. The expansion (from heat therapy) and contraction (from cold therapy) acts like a pump. During the hot therapy treatment, the blood vessels expand, increasing circulation and the flow of healing oxygen and nutrients to the injury. During the cold therapy treatment, the blood vessels constrict, reducing circulation which allows the injured area to soak up the nutrient rich blood before it is pumped on. In summary, hot and cold therapy work cohesively to help you recover faster.

Contact your healthcare provider for serious injuries or if your pain does not improve within 48 hours. Your healthcare provider can also provide answers to questions specific to your situation.