When used in the right combination heat and ice therapy can reduce pain and inflammation. It is a very safe and effective treatment for muscle strain, sprains, and pain.
Heat therapy works by relaxing the affected area and helping the blood supply return to normal. When you experience an injury the blood supply is constricted and pain signals are sent to the brain. The surrounding tissues also constrict and many times with an injury to a muscle you experience spasms, such as lower back spasms. These are very painful and can be debilitating. Heat therapy helps to relax the muscles, stretch the surrounding tissues, alleviate spasms, and reduce pain. It also helps to return flexibility further speeding the healing process with the following benefits:
- Dilates the blood vessels of muscles and increases the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the damaged tissues.
- Stimulates the sensory receptors of the skin decreasing the transmission of pain signals and relieving discomfort.
- Facilitates the lessening of stiffness by promoting stretching of soft tissues and increasing comfort levels.
Ice therapy works best right after an injury. By applying cold to the affected area the veins in the tissues contract and this reduces circulation. Once the ice is removed the body overcompensates and the veins dilate rushing blood to the area. This quickly brings the nutrients needed to help heal back muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Ice therapy offers these important benefits:
- Slows swelling and inflammation and reduces pain.
- Numbs sore tissues and acts like a local anesthetic without using drugs.
- Interrupts the pain/spasm reaction and slows nerve impulses from the area to the brain helping to reduce pain.
- When massage is added it adds to the benefits of the manipulation of soft tissues.
Used in conjunction these two therapies work to increase circulation, reduce pain, and speed healing without the use of drugs. Heat/ice therapy is an easy way to help reduce pain and speed healing for most soft tissue injuries or back pain.