While ice therapy is used to reduce swelling, heat therapy is used to relax the muscles and increase circulation. Both kinds of therapy help reduce pain.
Heat therapy is often used in patients who have chronic or long-lasting pain. Heat therapy can involve many kinds of methods, from simple heating pads, wraps, and warm gel packs, to sophisticated techniques, such as therapeutic ultrasound. Back injuries can create tension and stiffness in the muscles and soft tissues of the lumbar region, or lower back. In many cases, your circulation may be impeded. The tension in the muscles can sometimes escalate to spasms.
- Dilates the blood vessels of the affected muscles, allowing them to relax and begin healing.
- Helps lower discomfort by reducing the amount of pain signals going to the brain.
- Increases the ability of your muscles to easily flex and stretch, thereby decreasing stiffness.
Heat therapy, as well as ice therapy, are normally parts of an overall chiropractic treatment plan and rarely accomplish maximum results without it. Heat therapy is not used on swollen or bruised tissues, or in patients who have dermatitis, deep vein thrombosis, diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, open wounds, and cardiovascular conditions such as hypertension.
In many cases, temporary pain and even additional injury can be minimized and even avoided by a simple application of ice. Ice, applied in a timely manner and in an appropriate way, can reduce inflammation. Inflammation left unchecked can allow the source of the pain to continue doing damage to muscles, ligaments, tendons, and other structures.
Ice causes the veins in the affected tissue area to constrict. This reduces the flow of blood while acting as kind of anesthetic to numb the pain. But when the ice is removed (and this is key), the veins compensate by expanding, which then allows a large volume of blood to rush to the affected area. The blood brings with it important chemicals that aid in the healing process. Back and neck injuries frequently involve muscle sprains and strained ligaments, which can spasm and become inflamed. Ice massage, or cryotherapy, is effectively used to treat many kinds of injuries, including those associated with back or neck pain.
Ice massage can provide a number of benefits, including:
- Assisting the body in minimizing tissue damage
- Mitigating muscle spasms
- Reducing or eliminating pain by numbing sore soft tissues
Ice therapy is not recommended as a form of treatment for any kinds of rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud's Syndrome (a circulatory disorder of blood vessels of the extremities), colds or allergic conditions, paralysis, or areas of impaired sensation.