Heat and Ice Pack for Treatment of Pain
Let us see how soft tissue injuries and other pains can be treated with heat and Ice Pack. A doctor or nurse or physiotherapist can help you initially. Or you can use an Ice pack or heat pack to reduce the pain.
How to Use Heat and Ice?
Since ages, man has been using heat and cold to help alleviate pain and swelling. Many have benefited from this simple technique. Many studies have been inconclusive of the actual effects of heat and ice as applied to heal the wounds. Except for a few adverse effects, when used reasonably, treatments using heat and ice have been safe and effective.
The heat has been quite safe and effective in treating most of the pains. Heat can be used through heat pads, hot water bottles, heat creams, heat lamps, etc.
Heat dilates blood vessels and brings more blood to the applied area and heals the injured tissue. With its comforting effect, heat helps the pain to let go. If the tissues have gone sore and stiff, applying heat will make the tissue agile enough and releases the stiffness.
When applying heat on to the skin, ensure it is not too hot to burn the skin. As a safety measure, either place a thick cloth between the heat and the skin or let the heat cool down to warmness, before being applied. In any case, keep checking the skin for any damage.
Never ever apply heat to a new wound; else, it may cause to bleed either internally or externally, worsening the situation. A newly occurred muscle spasm at the back may be treated with the heat. A study conducted on a larger scale showed that there was little impact on short term back pain alleviation. However, there was considerable relief when the heat was applied along with exercising.
It has been clearly observed and noted that heat is effective in treating muscle pain due to over-exertion, cramps or spasmodic pain as in period pains and pains due to prolonged pain conditions and fibromyalgia.
Applying ice on any part of the body for over a few minutes is painful enough to bear. Since long, ice has been used effectively on soft tissue based swelling. Of late, it has been observed that applying ice may even delay recuperating because the immune system responds negatively due to less temperature in the injured area. It is therefore understood that the immune system takes appropriate action in healing the injured part.
Though ice helped manage pain, only for short duration, it was studied that it did not lessen the usage of painkillers. Therefore, using ice in a short duration for a longer time may help the cause.
Most of the studies were indecisive in determining effects of ice treatment, while some showed positively smaller effect. Few of the studies whose results are listed below helps to understand the effective use of ice pack or ice therapy.
Ice Pack or Ice Therapy:
In the case of osteoarthritis of the knee, ice therapy helped reduce the swelling and strengthened the affected muscle, providing a good degree of knee movement. At the same time, there was no telling effect of heat therapy. In either case, there were no side-effects too.
Gout showed improvement in pain level but the swelling did not come down when applied with ice therapy.
Some women showed improvement in their pain level when helped with ice packs on the stitches and tears after vaginal delivery.
Neck pain had neither effective heat nor effective cold in treating the pain.
Read More: Knee Problems and Injuries >> Knee Ice Pack
Ankle sprains showed some improvement with exercise after ice application.
Ice application helped reduce swelling in surgical wounds.
Swelling is generally caused due to some bleeding in tissues when subjected to sprain or bruising or strain. In such cases, ice application helps during treatment of soft tissue injury and during recuperation too.
Ice reduces bleeding into tissues, swelling, inflammation, muscle pain, spasms, etc.
As tissue fluid gathers due to injury, it causes stiffening of the area around the injury. This stiffening can be controlled to a larger extent, by applying ice pack therapy.
While recovering from an injury, ice helps reduce further pain and muscle spasms by letting exercising of the affected area. Thereby, it allows for better movement of the affected part. Ice basically numbs the area applied on and thus helps in exercising or moving the affected part, effortlessly. While exercising, ice can be put in place to help reduce pain but may cause muscle stiffness due to the extreme cold.
How is Ice Packs Made?
Readymade ice packs can be bought from pharmacies. Otherwise, use a wet towel or plastic bag to make ice packs from ice cubes. Frozen vegetable bags may be used too but the vegetables should not be consumed if the bag has been defrosted and refrozen. Ice can cause ice burns if you are not quick enough to take proper care in applying the ice from a deep freeze. Therefore take proper protective measure during such operations.
How to Use an Ice Pack?
Initially, apply any oil on the affected area if skin found undamaged. If damaged, cover the area with a plastic bag first to avoid the wound getting wet.
If a plastic bag is not being used, place cold wet flannel on the oil applied.
Now place the ice pack on the flannel.
Keep placing the ice bag until the affected skin is pink or red.
Let the ice stay in place for a maximum of 20 minutes. If placed beyond 20 minutes, the skin may get further damaged. Placing ice for longer periods can also reduce healing process.
Gently pressing the ice pack on the wound helps invariably.
Duration of Placing ice Pack:
Normally, 20 to 30 minutes of ice pack application within 5 to 10 minutes of the injury helps in the healing process of the wound. Repeat this process for every 2 to 3 hours once, while you are awake for up to 48 hours max.
After 48 hours, the treatment changes to mobilizing the injured tissues with stretching exercises. While exercising, the application of ice helps in lesser pain and relaxation of tissue.
Care to be taken when using heat and ice
Heat and coldest Ice packs should not be used where the skin condition is bad or where the skin is not reciprocating to heat or cold application or where there is poor circulation of blood or if prone to diabetes or if the wound is found infected.
Also, ice packs should not be used on the front or sides of the neck, on the left shoulder if having the heart condition.
Ice is proven better than heat therapy as ice application has a long-lasting and deeper effect.
If required, both, ice and heat can be applied again after one hour or so.