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    Hot Vs. Cold Compresses for Pain Relief (2022)


    Pain is one of the most common symptoms worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), joint pain affects 25% of Americans. Think about that for a second. One in every four Americans experiences pain on a regular basis due to a single condition. If we account for all the disorders that cause pain, the numbers will just be terrifying! Therefore, doctors are always looking for ways to relieve pain without having to prescribe pharmacological drugs.

    In this article, we will cover the effects of using hot compresses and cold compresses in the management of pain.

    Hot compresses (heat therapy)

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    Hot compresses use the principle of thermotherapy to address pain. By heating the area of injury, blood vessels will expand, improving circulation to the joints and muscles. Consequently, prostaglandins and other pain-causing compounds will get flushed away. Hot compresses also induce muscle relaxation and reduce joint stiffness, which is useful for post-exertional soreness.

    Cold compresses (cold therapy)

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    Cold compress is a cryotherapy method that uses low temperatures to treat pain. While thermotherapy accelerates blood circulation around the site of injury to accelerate healing, cold compresses produce the opposite effect – They slow everything down.

    You may notice that the medical team of professional sports players applies cold compresses whenever a player is injured. The purpose is to stop the pain and decrease the swelling.

    Avoid using cold packs and ice massages directly on your skin to avoid injury. Ideally, you would place a thin towel on the site of injury, then apply cold compresses.

    Which one is better for joint pain?

    There are multiple studies that support the effectiveness of cold and hot compresses in treating pain. However, which one should you choose?

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    You may expect the answer to be simple. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. After analyzing the effects of heat therapy and cold therapy in relieving pain, swelling, and stiffness, the results were often mixed.

    One thing you should keep in mind is the source of your pain. When your pain is the result of rheumatoid arthritis, cold compresses may be a better option for you. Conversely, osteoarthritis may benefit more from hot compresses.

    In summary, both treatments are very effective in the management of acute and chronic pain. They work rapidly and cause no side effects. Make sure to speak with your primary care physician about the best treatment for your specific case.

    With that said, it wouldn’t hurt to try both treatments and see what works best for you.

    Takeaway message

    Pain is a daunting symptom that could negatively impact your quality of life. When it’s severe, it can literally be debilitating. Fortunately, hot, and cold therapies can help with dampening the inflammation and relieving your symptoms.

    We hope that this article managed to highlight the most important aspects of heat and cold therapy.


    joint pain and arthritis

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