Heat and cold


Simple and effective

Applying heat or cold to a painful area can help relieve your pain. Some people prefer heat, others prefer cold.

Generally speaking, heat can relieve muscle spasms and tension. Cold can reduce swelling.

Depending on where you are – home, work, out and about – there are many different ways you can use heat and cold therapy including:

Heat

  • warm bath, shower or spa
  • heat packs
  • heat patches
  • heat rubs
  • hot water bottles
  • electric blanket
  • hand warmers

Cold 

  • ice packs
  • gel cold pack
  • cold gels
  • bag of frozen food
  • ice cubes

Some of these items are portable (e.g. heat patches, cold packs and rubs) and you can leave them in your car or desk drawer for when you need them. Others require a way to heat or cool them, e.g. a microwave or freezer.

Cautions 

  • Be aware of the temperature – it should always be comfortable.
  • Wrap heat or cold packs in a towel or cloth to help protect your skin from burns and tissue damage.
  • Check your skin regularly to make sure that you aren’t having any harmful effects from the heat or cold.
  • Be very careful using on areas of your skin with poor sensation to heat or cold.
  • Never use heat or cold over an area of skin where you’re numb, or you can’t feel light touch or the difference between hot and cold – there’s a high risk of burning or damaging your skin.
  • These treatments shouldn’t be used for long periods of time.
  • Heat or cold treatments shouldn’t be used on open wounds or damaged skin. Follow the instructions on the pack of patches, rubs, packs and gels.
  • When using rubs or gels avoid contact with sensitive areas (e.g. your eyes) and wash your hands thoroughly after applying.
  • If you’re using a wheat bag, make sure you allow it to cool completely before you reheat it. Don’t sleep with your wheat bag or smother it behind you in your chair or bed. This can cause them to overheat and catch fire. Always carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and never overheat them in the microwave.

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