Whether you’re an athlete or an average office goer, muscle pains are bound to pop up. You’re not free from sprains, muscle cramps, and back pains, and the older you get, the more they start to pop up! But the question to be asked is: what will make it feel better? Will icing it be better, or will applying heat work? This is a pretty common dilemma and it's quite a solvable one too. Want to know more? Read our article on whether you should use ice or heat for muscle pain.
When To Use Heat For Muscle Pain
Before we get into the technicalities of using heat, let’s understand in brief how heat therapy works. When you apply heat to the affected area, blood circulation improves and targets the affected area. This helps to relieve the intensity of the pain, in turn healing damaged tissues and relaxing sore muscles.
When it comes to heat therapy, doctors usually advise dry heat or moist heat.
- Dry Heat: Using dry heating equipment such as heating pads, dry heating packs, or fabricated means such as saunas. This type of therapy uses stable temperatures for heating.
- Moist Heat: For an increased level of blood flow and deeper penetration of muscle tissues, a doctor will recommend moist heat therapy. Steamed towels, moist heating packs, and hot baths are some examples of moist heat therapy. It’s said that moist therapy is more effective and requires less time as compared to dry heat.
However, the choice of heat therapy depends on personal preference. So, see whatever suits you best and decide for yourself.
Coming back to the burning question. When do you use heat? Use heat therapy when you have muscle pains that are longer than 6 weeks. If you have lingering neck or back pain, use heat therapy to loosen up the muscles and increase blood flow. Just be sure that you don’t burn your skin while applying the heat pad. In addition to heating pads, pain relief patches are a great way of applying heat to the affected area.
When To Use Ice For Muscle Pain
While heat improves blood flow, ice, on the other hand, reduces it. It’s mainly used when there’s inflammation. If you have sprained your leg doing some extensive physical activity, ice therapy reduces nerve activity, which in turn reduces pain.
Most commonly, ice is used for acute muscle pains. Say you get a bad muscle cramp on your calves and notice inflammation, that’s when you need to apply an ice pack in the first 48 hours. This will help to control pain, relieve swelling, and make the injury less stressful.
To relieve immediate muscle pains, use ice packs, coolant sprays, ice baths, and ice massages. You could also try a technique called cryo stretching, an activity that uses a cold pack to reduce muscle spasms and increase flexibility. Cryokinetics is another type of cold therapy you can include that uses cold treatment and physical exercise for sprains.
A Few Points To Remember
- Pain in large muscle groups such as your quads, hamstrings, and calves reacts well to heat therapy after three days of injury.
- While using ice packs, make sure that it’s not applied directly to the skin. If that’s done, the person receiving it could get frostbite.
- If you’re using heat pads, see that heat is applied to the affected area in 20 to 30-minute intervals per hour.
Now you know all that you need about whether you should use ice or heat for muscle pain. Identifying what kind of therapy you need for the pain at the beginning results in how fast the pain heals. On the other hand, if you experience any kind of pain while doing either of the treatments, pause it and visit your doctor to discuss more options.
How Do You Treat Muscle Pain?
Although you can treat muscle pain with over-the-counter medications, a more natural way of healing would be through heat or cold therapy. If the muscle pain is acute, ice is the way to go. On the other hand, heat therapy is ideal if the pain is chronic.
What Is Muscle Pain A Symptom Of?
Muscle pain could be a symptom of a variety of conditions. Some of the most prominent ones are tension, stress, and minor injuries.
What Is The Best Medicine For Muscle Pain?
Ibuprofen helps to reduce inflammation and that’s why it’s recommended for joint pains, muscle pains, and sports injuries.
When Should I Be Worried About Muscle Pain?
If your muscle pain doesn’t seem to reduce after self-care, that’s when you need to visit the doctor. However, visit the doctor immediately if you have trouble breathing, your muscles are extremely weak, or you have a stiff neck along with a high temperature.