Whether you are treating a bout of arthritis or calming the discomfort of a sprained ankle, using heat or cold to provide relief can be helpful. Knowing what to use and when is important for the best results. Here are some ideas to help make those painful conditions less discomforting.
When you want to soothe stiff joints and achy muscles, try heat therapy. Heat causes the blood to increase in the area and this helps with healing. It also relaxes muscles. Too much heat can cause injury to the skin, so be sure to monitor the temperature so that sensitive skin does not get burned.
There are many ways to treat a problem with heat. Muscle stiffness can be relieved with a warm bath or shower. This is a great way to start the morning if you wake up feeling like the tinman! A nice long soak is also a great way to relax muscles after a strenuous workout.
If the hot water treatment is not an option, you can apply a heating pad or hot water bottle to the area. When using hot water, wrap the water bottle in a cloth or towel to ensure that it is not too hot for the skin. If you use a heating pad, check the level and do not let it get too high for comfort.
If a hot water bottle or heating pad is not available, you can still use heat therapy by filling a sock with a cup and a half of rice. Tie a knot to keep the rice from coming out. Place the sock in the microwave oven for about a minute. Make sure it is not too hot; if it is, wrap it in a towel before placing on the affected area. For this DIY heating pad, it is best to use a sock made from natural fibers.
Cold treatments are used for 15-20 minutes. This method slows the circulation in the affected area by constricting blood vessels. This reduces swelling as the cold numbs pain in the area. Cold therapy is often used for sprained muscles.
If you do not have a first aid ice pack available, one can easily be made. You can fill a small plastic bag with ice and seal it off so it does not leak as the ice melts. For a quick ice pack, grab a bag of frozen vegetables – peas work well. An ice bath for the injured area is also a good choice. Fill a bowl or bucket with ice water and submerge the injured area in it for relief.
In some cases, you may find that alternating heat and cold will bring the most relief. Although these remedies may help the situation, they may not provide complete pain relief. You may still need pain relievers, and for more serious conditions, you should always seek the help of qualified professionals.
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