A hot/ cold compress is quite often our first reaction to any muscle sprain, injury as well as other forms of soreness and inflammation. However, most people are either unsure or unaware of which temperature and when to apply the compress to alleviate the symptoms effectively. The human body reacts differently to the application of varying temperatures – the constriction of blood flow or dilation of blood vessels determines the effect of temperature on the area of application. It is therefore crucial to gain a better understanding of the use of this therapy for effective treatment. Ice it or Heat it?
Cold Gel Packs – These gel packs are cooled to a suitable temperature in the refrigerator, ice bucket, or freezer and applied to the site of acute injuries and aches. Cold packs are effective in numbing the affected area and reducing the swelling as the cold temperature draws the blood away from the site. The fall in temperature constricts the blood vessels limiting the fluid collection around the site of injury, thereby minimizing swelling and bruising. A protective barrier such as cloth, towel, or sheet should always be used between the skin and the cold pack as a precautionary measure.
Hot Gel Packs – These packs are warmed in hot water or a microwave to a suitable temperature and then applied to the area of concern. Application of heat to sub-acute injuries and non-inflammatory body pain dilates the blood vessels and improves circulation. This fresh flow of blood brings nutrients and oxygen to the area of application contributing to the overall process of healing. Heat is also very soothing and particularly beneficial for long term injuries and chronic conditions such as neck and back pains. The application of hot gel packs also reduces the muscle tone and enables the area of application to be stretched easily and increases flexibility. Hot and cold packs can be easily used at home after the advice of a healthcare expert for acute injuries or self-prescribed in the case of most minor aches and pains. Often people use makeshift alternatives to gel packs such as frozen peas, crushed ice cubes, warm water bottles, etc. However, using a gel-based hot/cold pack is considerably safer, more convenient, and easier to use. Most hot/cold packs are also re-useable and suitable for both hot and cold therapy applications making them versatile and cost-effective. Benefits of Gel based Hot & Cold Packs:
- No Leakage: With makeshift hot/ cold packs chances of leakage are very high resulting in serious burns and damage to the skin. Using a gel-based pack minimizes this risk, making them much safer to use.
- Uniform Dispersion: Gel packs provide an even effect of the temperature over the applied area, ensuring that the effect of the treatment is distributed evenly.
- Moldable: Gel packs are flexible thud making them suitable for application on any part of the body.
- Re-usable: They are cost-effective and no additional effort is required to put together a hot pack or cold pack at home.
- Durable: Since most gel packs are puncture-resistant, tear-resistant and leak-proof, they are easy to store and use over a longer period.
- Ease of Use: To prepare a cold pack, the gel pack can be placed in a refrigerator/ freezer, while preparing a hot pack is as easy as popping it in the microwave for a minute making them extremely easy to use during emergencies as well as for chronic ailments.