• SHARE:

Heat and cold, the therapy preferred by pain

Thermal energy has been used since ancient times as therapy for alleviating pain. The effect on the body of applying cold to injuries and heat to muscle spasms is not unlike that of a local anesthetic, helping to alleviate aches and pains in much the same way.

For centuries, ancient peoples used thermal energy as therapy for managing pain. The effect of cold and heat on the system alleviates injuries, and in the 20th century, this power was mentioned in what's known as the "gate control theory of pain" which hypothesized that there are 'neural gates', like real gates of pain, located at the back of the spinal cord. Pain receptors were thought to be located on these gates which could be stimulated by external forces, like heat and cold.

Cold therapy reduces swelling

Treatment with cold therapy is often the best first response when dealing with injury. For example, cold acts by reducing swelling caused by sprains by constricting the blood vessels. Bringing down the temperature of the injured area also lowers the metabolism of the tissue and slows down the activity of the cells that haven't been harmed. In this way, cold therapy preserves the undamaged cells intact during the period following trauma to the tissue.

The local anesthetic effect of cold

Cold therapy is considered by medical science to be one of the main methods of pain-relief as it also slows down the speed of pain transmission to the peripheral nerves, which alleviates the most uncomfortable effects of the injury. Thermal energy released by an ice bag, for example, acts like a sort of local anesthetic.

Heat therapy gets rid of build-up in the tissue

Heat therapy can have many applications, but it must only be used after the initial and most acute phase of inflammation when there is no longer warmth, swelling or redness. Heat therapy works to alleviate pain by increasing blood flow in the trauma area, helping to eliminate waste build-up that may accumulate in the tissue as well as ensuring a greater supply of healing substances. Heat also accelerates all the system's biochemical reactions and increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the tissue, which results in the metabolism of the treated area being raised and reduces the pain.

Heat therapy increases the elasticity of the muscles

Heat therapy, like cold therapy, has a pain-relieving and relaxing effect on the parts of the body that have suffered trauma. It's not entirely clear how applying heat relieves chronic pain, but it seems that it is able to lower the activity of peripheral pain receptors. Heat definitely increases the elasticity of tissue, which is particularly evident in muscle and other parts of the body that contain a lot of collagen fibres.

Was it useful?

We do not reply to this form. If you have any questions or need information, please use the form on the Contact Us page.

You might also be interested in:
  • Is heat or cold the best first aid treatment for pain?

    Have you just had an orthopedic procedure or finished a tough training session? Are you in pain? Cold and heat therapy are there to help you get past the first stage before you can make it to the doctor. Here are some practical tips so you'll know whether to use heat or cold therapy, as it all depends on the type of injury.

    Find out more
  • Bruising, a shock wave to the body

    Bruises can be the result of that classic bang to the knee, foot or muscle, and are one of the most common orthopedic injuries of day-to-day life. Also known as contusions, they can often be associated with hematomas, which is reddening of the skin caused by blood collecting in the area of the body where the blow was sustained.

    Find out more
  • Shivering can help with pain

    Cold therapy can really help you to alleviate the pain of small everyday problems like a basic bruise or an insect bite. There are many products that take advantage of the power of cooling, from traditional ice bags to synthetic sprays. But let's go through them all so you understand when and how to use them correctly

    Find out more
You might be interested in
  • Thermogel

    A practical, reusable gel cushion that provides heat or cold when applied to the body, depending on your needs. It's suitable for the whole family, even for the little ones.

    Find out more
  • Fast Ice

    A practical, disposable pack in non-woven fabric, containing instant ice that's as convenient to use at home as when you're out and about.

    Find out more
  • Hot water bottles

    Bags designed to hold hot water safely, they are for applying to pain points on your body to bring you quick relief. Easy to use, effective do-it-yourself heat therapy.

    Find out more