What is Hot & Cold Therapy and what are the benefits?
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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?
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: 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
There are a wide variety of heat therapy benefits for you to try, including:
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.
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: 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
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:
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.
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.
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
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!