When we sustain an injury or experience unexpected pain, we often reach for ice packs or heating pads. The conventional wisdom holds that cold reduces swelling and heat relaxes tight or strained muscles. But is that really the case? And what about the times when both heat and cold seem to relieve your pain?


Let’s take a look at the science behind these treatments and see how you can use them to maximum effect.

The Science of Heat Therapy

Heat therapy relieves your muscle pain by increasing blood flow to affected areas. The improved circulation caused by the increase in temperature helps to relax your muscles and get you moving. Two different types of heat therapy can assist in treating your pain. What are they and how should you use them?


“Dry heat” sources like heating pads, adhesive patches and saunas are straightforward and convenient. “Moist heat” sources include jacuzzis, foot baths, and steam towels. Studies show that these heat sources provide greater relief even when applied for shorter periods of time, but your choice of treatment ultimately depends on your personal preferences and what you’re most comfortable with.

The Science of Cold Therapy

Cold therapy works its magic differently than heat therapy. As you might expect, rather than increasing blood flow to the area where it’s applied, cold therapy reduces blood flow. This treatment results in the reduction of inflammation and swelling, potentially reducing the severity and longevity of pain from bruises, sprains, and much more.


Just like heat therapy, cold therapy comes in many forms. You can apply it through ice packs, ice baths, coolant sprays, and ice massages. Cold therapy can do a lot of good, but it is not recommended for those who already deal with poor circulation or joint/muscle stiffness, as it can exacerbate these problems.


Heat and cold therapy both have the potential to control different types of pain and speed up your recovery. Now that you understand how they work, take the time to browse Medical Supply Depot for the options that will work best for you!  


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