(Updated 2017)

 

This is a fairly complete guide, for anissue that “should be simple”.

It is not, and it is worth to understand this subject, for the rest of your life.

You will benefit from reading, because you will be able to find relief without the risks and side effects of pills or injections, and you could help your healing process at home.

COLD: A NEW PARADIGM

For years, this article had the traditional information: cold helps to lower inflammation, pain, and helps the recovery process.

But a new way of thinking is taking power in the world of rehabilitation …

In principle, because although putting ice on injuries has been a common practice for over 40 years, there is little evidence to support its effectiveness.

In fact, there are many studies that prove the exact opposite!

This does not mean that cold does not help reduce pain. The problem is that by reducing the pain we could also be extending the recovery process, which makes the pain last longer…

HOW COLD DAMAGES

I know, it’s hard to believe, especially since most professionals still prescribe ice.

But for example, this study showed that markers that help heal decreased in subjects who applied ice. This study showed how applying ice did not help foot sprains at all.

The primary reason is that inflammation helps heal.

This with the exception of autoimmune diseases, which generate inflammation without trying to heal anything. And even though in times of great pain cold compresses could help, even for those suffering from autoimmune diseases, cold can often be counterproductive.

This means that even taking anti-inflammatory drugs, although sometimes necessary to “survive” the pain, could also delay the healing process. There are theories that ice could reverse the lymph flow in a way that would worsen your injury.

In addition, delaying the healing process involves a greater risk of re-damaging tissue.

Better then to let the body use its intelligence and natural processes of repair … that is, that it gets inflamed.

This does not mean that more inflammation than the body naturally produces is a good idea either … This brings us to the heat:

HEAT: HELPING TO HEAL AND CALM

There are three specific ways heat can help you:

Heat helps to relax muscles. This is important not only in the affected area, but also in the surrounding muscles, which are typically contracted from overuse (they are over-working  to compensate).

Heat increases blood flow and metabolic activity. Taking into account that the body heals primarily by using the blood to bring repair mechanisms and carry (along with lymph) waste byproducts, increasing heat can aid the healing process.

Heat can decrease pain. Heat stimulates the skin’s receptors, and this in turn reduces pain messages that go to the brain in the same area. It is as if the brain can process only a certain amount of sensory information, and it has to reduce pain information in order to process heat information.

To apply the heat you can use the hot water bags that are sold in pharmacies, or an electric heat blanket.

There are people who prefer towels with hot water – they work, but they lose heat fast. Others prefer a bath with hot water: this can work very well, as it can also help you relax the body, as long as you can be comfortable during the bath.

WHEN NOT TO USE HEAT:

As I said before, the body’s natural inflammation is positive. But exaggerating this process is not good. Therefore, it is not good to do in these cases:

  • During the first 48 hours of injury
  • When there is little circulation due to an illness
  • Edema (swelling)
  • Cardiac conditions
  • If you have problems feeling temperature changes
  • Infections
  • Burns

FINAL NOTE:

Remember to use precautions so that the heat is not very intense, and do not do it for more than 15 to 20 minutes in a row.
Let the area rest for the same amount of minutes you used the heat before reusing them.

And remember that if you have chronic pain, this does not solve the problem, it simply makes it more bearable, and can facilitate the recovery process.

For a holistic and lasting solution to your pain,

Mijael