Ice therapy or cryotherapy helps to reduce the swelling and blood flow to decrease the pain. Heat therapy or thermotherapy helps to improve blood flow to continue the healing process and to relax the muscles.
First determine whether your muscles have bruising or inflammation. If the muscle fibers are stretched too far, then your body responds in positive manner when the blood flow is increased.
If the inflammation is severe, it makes blood to become congested and restricts the oxygenated blood from reaching the muscles.
You must know whether it is to use ice or heat. Ice can be used more frequently than heat because of the risks associated with heat. Heat causes pain or burning if used incorrectly.
Don’t dare to keep ice or heat directly on your skin. Always use a protective barrier.
Benefits of ice therapy:
Use ice to decrease the inflammation and swelling. Applying ice reduces the blood flow when compared to the heat, which improves the blood flow. Apply ice to the swollen muscles within 24 hours to get best results. Initially, the cold reduces the massive blood flow to the sore muscles.
Apply ice to the sore muscles at least thrice a day. Ensure that your skin comes to its normal temperature before the application of extra ice. It is better to ice the muscles once in the morning, in the afternoon and at night. Doing this reduces the inflammation within 72 hours.
Benefits of heat therapy:
Apply heat to the tight muscles before exercising or doing a strenuous activity. Tight muscles will get relief from heat as it increases the elasticity. So, you can easily stretch your muscles.
Before doing a workout, loose the muscles to reduce the soreness. Best method is soaking a towel in hot water and then placing or wrapping at the particular area. Other methods include filling a bottle with hot water or having a hot bath.
Increased blood flow due to heat also improves the flow of oxygen and provides required nutrients to the muscles, thus helping to cure the affected area.
Application of heat also stimulates the sensory receptors in the skin and transmits the pain signals to the brain thus helping to relieve discomfort. Heat relaxes the connective tissues helping to increase the flexibility and comfort.
Particularly, heat therapy is beneficial for people suffering from lower back pain. Also, conditions like arthritis, IBS, multiple sclerosis and menstrual pain can be relieved by the application of heat.