If you suffer from spinal (back/neck), nerve or joint pain, you may have come across conflicting advise on the use of hot and cold pack for pain relief. This age old debate on hot packs and cold packs can be easily sorted by understanding how these two packs work and their effect on the body. Usage also depends on what is a cause of the muscle pain, whether it is a muscle spasm (tightness) or an acute injury or chronic pain. If you are a working mum like me this blog this will save you time from your already busy schedule by helping you to decide whether to use a hot pack or a cold pack for your muscle pain.
Lets first understand what a hot pack and a cold pack does. Our blood vessels are like flexible rubber pipes. When you apply a cold pack the rubber pipe or blood vessel will shrink or constrict (vasoconstriction). This will slow down the blood flow to the area. So if there is an acute injury to the area this slowing down of blood flow will give time to the body to wash out the swelling and inflammation in the injured area. It is similar to having an overflowing drain. In order to clear the overflowing water you want to slow down the water flow and first clear out the congestion that is causing the overflow of water. If you have muscle pain due to an acute injury or inflammation in the area then a cold pack is beneficial for you. Inflammation can manifest as ache or soreness in your muscles.
A hot pack dilates or expands (vasodilates) the blood vessels. This increases the blood flow to the area. If you have a muscle spasm or tightness or a sudden catch in your muscles or you wake up with stiffness in your joints or spine (back or neck) the hot pack will help by washing out the metabolites and pain producing substances in the area. Heat also causes relaxation of the stiff muscles due to the increased blood circulation and promotes flexibility of the muscles.
Watch this video for a deeper understanding on the use of hot and cold packs:
These are the general guidelines for the use of heat or cold packs but the final decision of whether you should use a hot pack or a cold pack depends on how your body responds to it. Listen to your body on the body and see what works better for you. It is possible that this effect varies between different body parts and from one person to another.
If you want to learn more about easy ways to manage your spinal (neck & back) and joint pain, join my free community where we have done free trainings on "Simple Solutions to Manage Your Back/ Neck Pain"
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