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Heat Therapy vs Cold Therapy: Which is better?

    Heat Therapy and Cold Therapy

    Probably, you haven’t heard about heat and cold therapy. The method of using both therapies is completely different. Where on the one hand the benefits of cold therapy are seen to reduce the pain immediately after injury. At the same time, the benefits of heat therapy can be effective in reducing chronic pain. Therefore, heat and cold therapy have an important contribution in the field of medicine. In this article, we will discuss about these two therapies in detail.


    Heat therapy is also known as thermotherapy in medical language. In this therapy, heat-providing devices such as hot cloths, hot water bottles, heating pads, ultrasound, hydrocooler packs and whirlpool baths are used. It can help in reducing pain anywhere in the body. It is especially considered beneficial in rheumatoid arthritis, muscle spasms, reducing the pain of injury and repairing damaged tissues.

    Heat therapy (thermotherapy) can also be beneficial in many other problems. These include reducing joint stiffness and pain, as well as swelling problems, edema and increased blood flow. Heat therapy helps improve blood flow to the affected area, which can work relieve pain.


    There are mainly two types of heat therapy, moist heat and dry heat. Both of these are explained in detail below.

    (i) MOIST HEAT:

    Moist heat is also known as convection heat. It is thought to be a fast and effective method of heat application. Hot water and steam are used for this. Moist heat takes less time to heat. Examples may include sauna baths, steamed towels, hot baths, hot tubs and hot showers.

    (ii) DRY HEAT:

    It is also known as conducted heat therapy. It is done with the help of devices or sources of heat that are easy to use on specific parts of the body. These sources and equipment may include hot packs, hot gels, wraps, heating pads, infrared saunas and massage chairs.


    The benefits of thermotherapy (heat therapy) for health are many. They include:


    According to a study, heat therapy may be beneficial in reducing pain. At the same time, an another research has shown that the use of heat therapy can improve blood flow in the body.

    Therefore, applying a heating pad or hot water bag can help relieve muscle pain. Also, using warm water compresses can also provide relief from back pain.


    Heat therapy (thermotherapy) can also be used to improve a weakened immune system. A research done on this topic confirms this. According to the research, heat is given through heat therapy on the whole body, due to which physical flexibility can increase the immune system.


    Heat therapy can also be beneficial in the problem of joint pain. It helps increase the elasticity of tissue, which can reduce joint pain. In addition, heat therapy works increase blood circulation in the body, which can help reduce pain.


    Respiratory viruses can cause mucus build-up in the nose. The use of heat therapy can be beneficial in this regard. According to a scientific research, hot springs, steam rooms, sweat lodges, saunas, steam inhalation, hot mud and poultices can be used to prevent respiratory infections. It can also reduce the problem of mucus accumulation in the nose.


    The benefits of heat therapy have also been seen for the removal of toxins from the body. It helps in the body’s detoxification. Research has found that taking regular steam/sauna bath releases sweat from the body and toxins can also come out with sweat.


    Heat therapy is used in different ways as moist heat and dry heat. So, let’s talk about it:


    Sauna Bath — It is also known as steam bath. In this therapy, the person is sent in a steam form for some time. Where the steam coming from all around heats up the temperature, due to which the toxins present in the body can be flushed out through sweat.

    Hot Tub Bath — In this therapy, a bathing tub is filled with water at a temperature of 48 to 55 degrees Celsius. Then he lies down in the tub for some time. In this therapy the head remains outside the water.

    Steamed Towels — To do this therapy, soak a towel in water and squeeze it, then put it in the microwave to heat for 30 seconds. When the temperature of the towel becomes favorable, the EA is placed on the affected area.

    Hot Shower — As the name suggests, in this therapy, the patient is treated by bathing the patient with hot water coming out of the shower.


    Hot Packs — In this therapy, silicone packs filled with warm water are used to reduce the problem on the affected area.

    Heating Pad — This is also an electronic device, it is very easy to charge and heat it and use it on pain and injury.

    Hot Gel Packs — In this therapy, certain types of gel packs available in the market are used. These gel packs are heated in water to a certain temperature before being applied to the affected area.

    Wraps — This is an electronic device, which is heated by electricity. After warming up, it is placed on the affected area.

    Infrared Sauna — In this therapy, heat is provided to the body by infrared lamps using electromagnetic radiation. Along with this, the body is heated before heating the air in it.


    There are some cases where heat therapy is not recommended including a body injury or open wound. Apart from this, it is also advised not to use heat therapy in certain medical conditions; including:

    • Diabetes mellitus (high level of glucose in the blood).
    • When sensitive to heat.
    • Atopic (inflammation of the skin).
    • Multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease that affects the central nervous system.
    • In case of serious injury to the spinal cord.
    • In severe forms of rheumatoid arthritis.
    • If pregnant, do not use the sauna or hot tub.


    In addition to the benefits of heat therapy, it can also have some risks. They may include:

    • Applying the therapy directly to the affected area can result in skin burns.
    • Using a hot object in heat therapy can burn the skin.
    • Using heating tools for more than 20 minutes at a time can be harmful to the skin.
    • If the problem of inflammation is severe, then taking heat therapy can make the problem worse.
    • Its negative effect can also be seen in sensitive people.
    • If there is an infection and use of heat therapy, there may be an increased risk of spreading the infection.


    Cold therapy is also known as cryotherapy. In this technique, the affected part of the body is exposed to a very cold temperature for a few minutes. In cryotherapy, a particular part of the body or the whole body is treated. A variety of means are used for treatment, including ice massages, ice packs, coolant sprays and ice baths.

    Many individuals take this therapy only once or twice a month, but you can use it regularly for better results


    There are different ways of applying cold therapy to the affected area, which are as below:


    This is the most common form of cold therapy. To do this, cubes or crushed ice are used inside the ice pack. Research mentions that the use of ice packs can be beneficial for reducing pain and injury. In this, the level of pain can be reduced by reducing the intramuscular temperature during treatment.

    (ii) ICE SPRAY:

    As we mentioned, the condition of pain can be reduced by reducing the temperature. Similarly, the cooling effect of ice spray can also show its effect by cooling the affected area during treatment.

    (iii) ICE MASSAGE:

    In this technique, ice is used for massaging the affected area. Massaging in this way is believed to provide immediate relief from pain and inflammation. Wrap it in a light cloth and massage it around the affected area or all over the body.

    (iv) ICE BATHS:

    In this technique, a person is made to sit in a small pool filled with ice water for about 5 to 10 minutes, in which his entire body except the head remains in ice-cold water. Apart from this, cooling chamber can also be used in this therapy.


    The benefits of cryotherapy (cold therapy) may include:


    The use of cold therapy can be effective in the problem of migraine headaches. Research has revealed that cold therapy has been used to treat migraine for about 150 years. In research, a mixture of salt and ice was wrapped around the patient’s head. It was found that ice somewhat reduced migraine pain by cooling the blood passing through the intracranial vessels.


    The use of ice therapy can also be considered effective in improving mood. According to a scientific research, health therapy can have a positive effect on people affected by mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. In fact, it may be helpful in releasing the hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and endorphins that reduce mood disorders. It may help improve the mood.


    Cold therapy can also be effective in reducing the problem of Alzheimer’s. Research on this topic found that the anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects of cryotherapy can work reduce inflammation and oxidative stress during Alzheimer’s.


    The use of cold therapy can also be beneficial in inflammatory problems, such as arthritis. In a study conducted by scientists, it was found that through whole body cryotherapy, the pain in arthritis patients has been reduced to a great extent.

    In research, patients were seated in a cold chamber for an average of 2.5 minutes during treatment, which found that their joint pain condition temporarily improved after the treatment.


    The use of cold therapy can be beneficial in reducing pain by numbing the nerves. Research has found that constricting blood vessels through ice therapy can relieve pain by temporarily numbing the nerves in the affected area.


    Along with many diseases, the positive effect of cold therapy has also been seen in skin related diseases. In fact, cryotherapy can improve antioxidant levels in the blood as well as reduce symptoms of dryness and itching caused by atopic dermatitis.


    Before using cold therapy, keep in mind that ice should not be applied directly to the skin, as it can cause damage to the skin and tissues. In addition to this, ice compresses within 48 hours after the injury may help reduce pain. Here; the method of use and things to keep in mind are explained in detail:

    • Ice should be used on the affected area with light hands in circular motion.
    • Cold therapy should be used up to six inches around the area where pain is felt.
    • Ice massage should not be used directly on the skin. It can cause numbness in the bone.
    • It should not be kept in contact with the skin for a long time. It can be used on the skin only for a maximum of 5 minutes.
    • This therapy can be repeated two to five times a day.


    Cold therapy should be avoided in the following circumstances:

    • Sensitive people should not use cold therapy.
    • Cold therapy should not be used directly on muscles or stiff joints.
    • Diabetic patients should also avoid using it.
    • Cold therapy should not be used in case of low blood circulation.


    Risk factors of cold therapy include:

    • Frost Bite — It is also known as frostbite. If cold therapy is used for a long time or directly, it can affect parts of the body such as the nose, fingers or toes due to exposure to cold. This can cause numbness or irritation of the skin.
    • Cold Injury — If cold therapy is used for a long time, then it can also cause cold injury.
    • Chronic Pain — This is called chronic or severe pain. When ice is kept on the affected area for an extended period of time, it can cause chronic pain or increase the pain.


    The use of both heat therapy and cold therapy can be beneficial to a great extent when there is a problem of injury and pain, but it is important to consider some things before using both therapy. It should be kept in mind that the use of heat and cold therapy for a long time can be harmful. Along with this, their use is not a cure for a serious problem, so if you have any kind of serious problem, definitely consult a doctor.



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