From treating a simple sports injury to their potential use in emergency care and life-saving procedures, hot and cold therapies may provide a wide range of potential health benefits. Exposure to heat can increase blood flow, circulation and perfusion while lowering temperatures can decrease inflammation and even lower metabolic function. The following five benefits showcase some of the ways in which hot and cold therapies may be utilized.
There are numerous situation that may benefit from improved blood flow. The vasodilation caused by exposure to warm temperatures can provide a very simple, safe and effective way to help optimize circulation. This benefit is what makes heat therapy such a widely used resource for those seeking to overcome an injury.
Increased circulation can provide tissues and cells with more abundant supplies of oxygen as well as ensuring that the waste products of cellular metabolism are able to be removed more efficiently. Heat therapy is an effective way to speed healing at the site of an injury.
Decreased Pain and Reduced Discomfort
Cold therapies can provide decreased sensation which may be desirable when dealing with the pain and discomfort common with many different types of injuries. Contrast therapy, which is the alternating application of hot and cold temperatures, can often provide a greater measure of comfort and relief than many sufferers might have thought possible.
Reducing Inflammation and Swelling
Cold compresses and other forms of cold therapy may be used in order to decrease inflammation and swelling. While some degree of swelling is beneficial for the healing process, failing to reduce inflammation at the site of an injury could lead to additional problems and complications that sufferers would do well to avoid.
Decreased Metabolic Function
Prolonged exposure to low temperatures can decrease metabolic function. While typically not a procedure that is used outside of emergency care, the rapid lowering of a patient’s core body temperature is commonly used to treat prolonged cardiac arrest as well as in certain types of surgical procedures.
Topical Application of Hot, Cold and Contrast Therapies
Part of why hot and cold therapy is so widely used is the ease in which it may be applied. While there are numerous devices and medical products on the market, such as chemical packs that provide rapid heating and cooling in a variety of different circumstances or environments, a simple water bottle is often all that is required. Alternating hot and cold therapies at the site of a minor or moderate injury is a very effective way to provide initial care. These therapies can provide almost any patient with the ability to reduce swelling, lower pain levels and speed the healing process using only the most basic and common of household supplies.