If you sit for long hours at work for meetings or stand for long hours at home while doing house chores, you may have noticed a tingling numbness or dull achy pain in your arms/hands and legs/buttocks. This can be caused by various reasons but the commonest one is nerve pain. You may have reached out for a hot or cold pack to manage the nerve pain at some or the other time. But you might have wondered what is better for nerve pain: a hot pack or a cold pack? This is a very common question. In this blog, lets discuss how heat and cold packs help with managing nerve pain and which one should you use.
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. This gives time to the body to wash out the swelling and inflammation in the painful area. There is a decreased inflammatory signal in that area, thus promoting healing. Cold also slows down the nerve conduction, the reason why we feel numb when we apply ice to an area. If you have nerve pain due to an acute injury or inflammation then a cold pack is beneficial for you.
A hot pack dilates or expands (vasodilates) the blood vessels. This increases the blood flow to the area. This rush of blood brings with it more oxygen and nutrients into the area, thus washing out the metabolites and pain producing substances in the area. This helps in healing the nerves and reducing the nerve pain. Heat also helps to increase muscle elasticity and induces relaxation, thus reducing muscle spasm. If the nerve pain is due to an irritation of the nerve from a tight muscle, as it is in most cases, this can be beneficial to reduce the nerve pain. 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) that increases you nerve pain then try to use a hot pack.
Watch this video for a deeper understanding on nerve pains:
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 know the hot and cold packs that I use, you can find them HERE.
HERE is a free guide on "How can you manage your nerve pain?" where you can get more information about
what are nerve pains, how do you know if you are suffering from nerve pains, some solutions to manage your nerve pain and much more.
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