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Heat or Cold Therapy

Heat and cold therapy are often recommended to help relieve an aching pain that results from muscle or joint damage

Basic heat therapy, or thermotherapy can involve the use of a hot water bottle, packs that can be heated in a microwave, or a warm bath

For cold therapy, or cryotherapy, a water bottle filled with cold water, something cooled in the freezer, or cool water can be used.

In some cases, alternating heat and cold may help, as it will greatly increase blood flow to the injury site.


Cold treatment reduces blood flow to an injured area. This slows the rate of inflammation and reduces the risk of swelling and tissue damage. It also numbs sore tissues, acting as a local anaesthetic

Ice can help treat a swollen and inflamed joint or muscle. It is most effective within 48 hours of an injury.

Rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) are part of the standard treatment for sports injuries. Ice shouldn't be applied directly to the skin

Ice is best used on recent injuries as it is a good anti inflammatory. It may be less helpful for back pain, possibly because the injury is not new, or because the problem tissue, if it is inflamed, lies deep beneath other tissues and the cold press would struggle to reach the main cause of the pain

Back pain is often due to increased muscle tension, which can be aggravated by cold treatments. I usually advise that heat treatment would be better for back pain


Applying heat to an inflamed area will dilate the blood vessels, promote blood flow, and help sore and tightened muscles relax. Improved circulation can help reduce the buildup of lactic acid which occurs after some types of exercise. Heat is also psychologically reassuring, which can also have a relaxing effect on the mind. Heat therapy is usually more effective than cold at treating chronic muscle pain or sore joints

Applied to the neck, heat may reduce the spasms that lead to headaches.

Some people use heat treatment, often in the form of a hot bath, to stave off DOMS (delayed muscle onset soreness)

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