Have you ever heard someone described as “hot and cold”? People use that idiom to describe a personality that can shift as suddenly as the wind. Hot-and-cold types can swerve from passionate to indifferent and back again. The term usually comes with a negative connotation, but switching between hot and cold is not necessarily a problem.
The approach can work quite well when you are in pain. Alternating hot and cold therapy is a widely accepted approach to various medical issues. In this article, we will describe the treatment method in detail and demonstrate some of its biggest benefits.
What is Alternating Hot and Cold Therapy?
When a part of your body is afflicted, your doctor may have different advice depending on the affliction. In some cases, they will say it is best to apply something cold to the area. This is called cryotherapy. You can carry it out with a pad kept inside the freezer for a while, as well as an ice pack.
Alternatively, they may recommend the opposite and ask you to cover the afflicted area with something hot. We call that approach thermotherapy. Instead of freezing a pad, you would instead chuck it in the microwave until it is nice and toasty. You could also fill an empty bottle with hot water and press it against the skin.
Sometimes, neither cryotherapy nor thermotherapy will be sufficient — not on their own. Alternating hot and cold therapy involves switching between the two methods. You press something icy against the area for a while. Once the skin gets some time to warm up a little, you then press something with more sizzle against it. Let the skin cool down a bit, then repeat the process.
What are the Benefits?
By this point, you might still be wondering: why alternate at all? What does alternating hot and cold therapy do that cryotherapy and thermotherapy cannot do on their own? We will show you exactly why and what by describing just a few of the treatment’s more notable benefits below.
The main perk of this process is that the sudden temperature shifts encourage blood flow. Thermotherapy expands the blood vessels, bringing more blood to that part of the body. Cryotherapy causes contraction, which limits swelling and inflammation. Switching between the two can give you the benefits of both while countering the downsides. Doctors often recommend this approach to treating injuries for this very reason. It is proof that hot and cold really can go well together.
Blood vessels are not the only parts of your body that expand and contract with heat and cold. Your lymphatic vessels get the same reactions, which is important because they transport much-needed lymph fluid. This substance is rich in white blood cells. When you are at risk of infection or experiencing chronic pain, you will want as many of those as possible funneling into the affected area. Switching between hot and cold shower water may feel easier when you know that it promotes this effect.
Loosened Muscles and Joints
Placing an ice pack on stiff or aching muscles can help with the pain. Placing a heated pad on them can release tension. Why choose which one you should use? A blend of both can prove more helpful than each one on its own. The same goes for swollen joints, which can be a boon to people with arthritis. While alternating hot and cold therapy may not be able to heal that condition, it may help greatly with managing it.
People with injuries and recurring pain are not the only ones who appreciate those same muscle-loosening effects we just mentioned. Athletes, gym rats, and workout enthusiasts use alternating hot and cold therapy to limber up before exercising and relax their bodies afterward. They often turn to contrast therapy in particular — a form of this treatment that primarily uses showers and baths. Better still, they can use it to treat injuries sustained from overexerting their muscles.
How Do You Do It?
Alternating hot and cold therapy is not something that your physician can do for you. This treatment must be done at home, so you and anyone who will assist you must learn how to do it properly. Fortunately, it is not that difficult. Applying the heat and cold sources for about 20 minutes at a time should be sufficient. Make sure to rest while you are undergoing the treatment.
Before you make the swap, you would be wise to give your skin some recuperation time. Let it adjust closer to its normal temperature. This approach not only gives the skin some time to breathe but also makes the effects of both hot and cold more effective. On top of that, you get less of a shock once you make the switch.
The temperature should not be too extreme either way. If you make that mistake, your skin may change into unusual colors, develop a rash or blisters, or otherwise look abnormal. At that point, your doctor will need to know.
What Tools Do I Use?
A variety of tools can help greatly with alternating hot and cold therapy. If you ask us, the best option may be hot/cold wraps. These products have pockets for special packs, which you can heat or cool as needed. Moreover, they come in several different forms and sizes, and each one is designed to wrap around a specific part of the body. Options are available for wrists and hands, feet and ankles, waists, shoulders, and more.
If you ever get an injury or condition that could be treated with a cryo/thermotherapy mix, Alex Orthopedic is here to help. Our online store is home to the ThermaPress line, which is devoted to offering high-quality hot/cold wraps and similar products. The ones that rely on packs all come with a few, so you can keep one in the freezer while you warm yourself up. Check out our great items and great prices today so you can start seeing the benefits right away.