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cold and hot therapy benefits

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What is Hot & Cold Therapy and what are the benefits?

Massage, Saunas, Wim Hof and Beyond! Taking you on a journey through #WisdomToWellness 

Ruby Deevoy

What is Hot & Cold Therapy and What Are The Benefits?


Ever used a hot water bottle for cramps or reached for a bag of frozen peas to ease an injury? Most of us are familiar with there being cold and hot therapy benefits, and that you can use cold and hot therapy to treat a variety of aches and pains, but have you considered how it works?

Hot and Cold therapy benefits

Photo by Robson Hatsukami Morgan on Unsplash  hot-cold-therapy-benefits

As with many of the oldest remedies, passed down through the generations, we started using these techniques just because we could feel they made a difference. But as time has gone on and scientific knowledge has developed, our understanding of why hot and cold therapy is so powerful has crystallised. Now, we have a much clearer understanding of how to do hot and cold therapy and a range of different techniques, including alternating cold and heat treatment and utilising the advantages of cold and hot therapy in a massage.
 
Here, we explore what we know about the soothing benefits of hot and cold therapy, and techniques you can make the most of them next time you’re in need.
 

Heat Therapy

Heat Therapy: Boost Circulation Naturally

One of the key ways cold and hot therapy benefits massage is by improving wellbeing through increased circulation, and just applying heat directly to an inflamed area can have a similar effect on its own – which is why a variety of massage methods use heat to make the results all the more impressive. When experiencing chronic pain, particularly if that is manifested as muscle or joint inflammation, increasing blood flow with heat treatment helps deliver higher levels of oxygen and nutrients which is essential for repair, reduced muscle spasms, pain and swelling.

Use Heat Therapy with Caution

Heat therapy can be extremely useful when treating existing pain and it can even make other treatments, like stretching and exercise, easier and more effective. But, it’s best to avoid heat therapy on a fresh injury as increased blood flow right away might exacerbate the issue. And of course, always make sure the heat you’re using is not too hot! You don’t want to burn yourself.

Heat therapy techniques

Heat - therapy - techniques

Heat Therapy Techniques

There are a wide variety of heat therapy benefits for you to try, including:

Sauna 

A small, wooden room heated to a high temperature (usually between 65 and 90 degrees centigrade) with hot rocks. This is a Finnish tradition thought to have originated about 2,000BC! Today, many health clubs and swimming pools have them available to use and it’s even possible have your own sauna installed at home.

Hot tub

Natural hot springs have been used as a form of heat therapy across the world for thousands of years and they’re still popular today – albeit often as a manmade version! This form of heat therapy was (and still is!) especially popular in Japan, where you would visit an ‘onsen’, and ancient Rome, where you would regularly visit natural spring or bathhouse as a health practice.

Hot bath or shower

Simply taking a hot bath or shower at home can work wonders. The University of Oregon published a study showing that regular hot baths can help reduce blood pressure. Psychologist Neil Morris, who surveyed 80 people, found that bathing can diminish feelings of depression and pessimism. And a randomised study performed by the Japan Health and Research Center, Tokyo City University and Jichi Medical University revealed a significant drop in fatigue, stress and pain in subjects from taking baths compared to taking a shower. 

Hot stone massage

A practice first used in Ayurvedic medicine around 5,000 years ago to help tense muscles release. Today, you can get this treatment at many spas – the stones are heated in water before being placed along your spine, in the palms of your hands, down your legs and between your toes. Some therapists alternate hot and cold stones to encourage lymphatic flow to reduce and remove waste build up in the body.

Hot water bottle, heat wraps, pads and patches

These are a few ways to use direct heat application at home. As with a hot stone massage, this can help to relive muscle tension fast.

Cold Therapy

Cold Therapy: A Natural Treatment for Fresh Injuries

Unlike heat therapy, it’s thought that applying a cold compress on a fresh injury or muscle pull can help reduce the damage as this method constricts blood vessels (which may decrease acute inflammation and pain) and lowers cell metabolism, while preventing tissue death.

How to do Cold Therapy

Most experts recommend applying cold directly to the affected area (although covered, to prevent a cold burn on the skin) for 20 minutes, during which time you can expect to feel cold, mild burning, aching and finally, numbness.

Cold therapy techniques

Photo by Martin Robles on Unsplash cold - therapy - techniques 

Cold Therapy Techniques

The Wim Hof Method – one form of cold treatment which combines breathwork and brief, full body cold exposure for a purported range of extraordinary health benefits. This version of cold therapy has gained popularity over recent years and some researchers claim those who practice the Wim Hof Method may experience an increased immune response, accelerated metabolism, reduced inflammation, improved sleep and higher energy levels!

Other examples of cold therapy include:

Cold compress

Applying a wrapped ice pack to an injury may help prevent further damage, although experts recommend not using this method on stiff muscles or joints, or if you have poor circulation.

Ice massage

Applying a wrapped ice cube and massaging into the affected area in a circular motion is thought to be most beneficial within 24 – 48 hours of sustaining an injury, or after an intense workout. You can also use cold therapy to treat facial puffiness and improve muscle and skin tone.

Contrast therapy

Alternating Hot and Cold Therapy

You can also use hot and cold treatments together! Some recent studies have revealed that alternating hot and cold compresses or water submersion can help block the pain transmission signals to and from the brain. 

Hot and Cold Therapy Using Natural Ingredients

Hot and Cold therapy using natural ingredients

Photo by Paul Carroll  hot - cold - therapy using natural ingredients

Finally, one other option for hot and cold treatment can also come from certain ingredients used in massage creams and balms, like our very own Dermactiva range! 

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