Is it better to apply cold or heat to a sore area?

Muscle or joint pain is very common in people who do physical exercise or suffer from certain diseases. In these situations, it is usual to try to calm the pain with medication. However, there are non-pharmacological measures that can help relieve symptoms. In fact, cold and heat calm pain and are one of the main non-pharmacological measures to alleviate it, as pointed out by Dr Ashu Consul, Consultant Orthopaedic in Dwarka, Venkateshwara Hospital, Delhi.

Experts may recommend applying cold or heat, but which is recommended in each case? Some of the differences are:

When should you use the cold?

We must use the cold to reduce inflammation due to trauma, in case of suffering a headache or to prevent the appearance of bruises, the expert explains that it can be administered wet, with compresses or dry, through bags of ice.

Cold helps to reduce inflammation and calm pain thanks to its anti-inflammatory capacity”, adds Dr Consul, who advises that when you have finished administering the cold, you should dry the skin. In addition, he advises against administering cold to people with circulation problems and on wounds that are not healed.

When should heat be administered?

“The administration of heat is highly recommended to treat the pain of non-traumatic inflammation of the joints, in addition, it accelerates the drainage of infectious processes and relaxes the contracted muscles”, explains Dr Gholam Sarwar, Physiotherapist in Dwarka, Delhi.

The physiotherapist in Delhi indicates that heat relieves pain and muscle spasms. It can be administered wet, with compresses or cloths, or dry, with bags of water or the classic bags of seeds.

Using heat on wounds that are bleeding during the first 24 hours is not recommended because it increases blood flow and promotes bleeding. Nor in bony prominences, since they are areas of reduced sensitivity and favour the appearance of skin lesions.

Regarding the application, the two specialists point out that it is the same in both. You have to apply heat or cold for alternate periods of between 15 and 20 minutes for about two hours.

Finally, both point out that in case of intense pain, both cold and heat are methods that can be used in addition to pharmacological therapy prescribed by an orthopedic in Delhi.