Hot or Cold?

Hot or Cold?

It’s the age old question; hot or cold?

After a day of activity, you find yourself suffering from joint or muscle pain. So, do you rush to the fridge to grab that ice pack, or calmer through the closet in search of that heating pad?

For such simple treatments, it’s surprising so much confusion surrounds them.

Cryotherapy (therapy using cold) and thermotherapy (therapy using heat), both serve a purpose when it comes to treating injuries and remedying pain.

The real question isn’t which one is better, but what do each do?

Think about what happens when things get cold. They contract and shrink.

When you suffer an injury, in most cases the affected area will become inflamed; it will swell as the body races to address the injury. Much of that initial pain is from the inflammation itself.

The first thing you need to after suffering an injury is reduce the swelling.

By repeatedly adding and then removing ice, you bring the swelling down and the pain from the inflammation subsides.

In fact, physiotherapists use an acronym called RICE for treatment of most injuries. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

Heat, on the other hand, works the opposite of cold.

Rather than contracting and tightening everything, heat expands and eases things.

So, when you find yourself suffering pain from whole muscle spasms and trigger points, which, in most cases present in the form of neck and back pain, what you need is to relax those muscles by applying heat.

It’s important to not only understand the difference between heat and cold therapies, but also the negative effects that can occur when you mix the two up.

Applying heat to an injury actually increases inflammation, which can actually cause more damage to the injured site and create more pain.

Applying ice to a painful muscle you actually cause the muscle to restrict and contract further, causing even more spasms and more pain.

But that still leaves a big ‘burning’ question. (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun).

What happens if you injure a muscle through a strain or a tear?

In that case, when you suspect an actual injury and not just pain from regular over exertion, remember the following… when in doubt, ice wins out! But only for the first little while after the injury is detected.

If you’re unsure whether or not the pain is caused by an actual injury, in most cases pain from muscle injury occurs suddenly and severely.

Those aches you get after bending all day planting in the garden, or the stiffness and soreness that comes after biking a mountain trail are just your muscles telling you they’re tired and over worked!

There are many products on the market that provide relief trough both heat and cold therapy. At Cooper Medical Supplies, we carry a line of products produced by CryoDerm (

While CryoDerm Cold provides relief through cold therapy, CryoDerm Heat is an excellent heat therapy solution.

Be sure to ask us about them next time you’re in the store.