Cold Compresses vs. Hot Compresses – What’s the difference?
Cold Compresses vs. Hot Compresses – What’s the difference?

Cold Compresses vs. Hot Compresses – What’s the difference?

Hot and cold compresses are both common physical therapy methods. Sometimes, people can use both methods to relieve pain from minor injuries they suffer in their daily lives. But very often, the distinction between the two can be a challenge: When to use cold compresses? When to use hot compresses?

How do cold compresses work:

Ice packs (you could also use ice cubes or iced bottled water) are practical items for emergency trauma treatment – that’s why many people keep them at home.

The decrease in temperature causes vasoconstriction. After a sprain or contusion, swelling occurs due to the rupture of small blood vessels and the infiltration of blood into the surrounding tissues, and the swelling compresses nerve endings and brings pain. The cold compress causes vasoconstriction to interrupt this pathological process. When the cold compress is stopped and the blood returns to normal, the damaged part of the body has been repaired and coagulation has been produced, thus reducing local bruising and swelling. Hot compresses are then applied to promote the absorption of bruising, which is the best treatment for sprains.

When people have a fever, if antipyretics don’t work, cold compresses can be applied (on the head, neck, armpits, root of thighs, and other areas with large blood vessels).

Note: You need to take proper care when applying ice to avoid frostbite to the skin.


How do hot compresses work:

It helps to promote local blood circulation and effectively relieve muscle spasm in the body.

It can promote blood return to the trunk, reduce the burden on the heart and allow the limbs and brain to receive more blood and oxygen supply.

Using a hot towel on the back before going to bed at night can relieve the body’s fatigue, thus playing a role in promoting sleep. If you have been plagued by insomnia for a long time, you can try a hot compress.

Older people can use chair with heat in their daily lives to relieve fatigue. Before you purchase one, please note that different models of recliner has different heating parts.

Note: Generally, hot compresses should not exceed 20 minutes each time, the temperature is around 40 degrees, mainly to prevent burns on the skin. Patients with specific diseases should not frequently perform prolonged hot compresses.

from Denny Müller

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