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Dos and Don'ts of Hot and Cold Packs

  • Targeted Pain Relief
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When you have aches and pains, you might reach for an ice pack or a heating pad to provide you with a more comfortable feeling. However, did you know that certain forms of discomfort call for one over the other? Follow this guide to learning when to use heat and when to use ice to reduce your discomfort.

Note that this is not intended to be medical advice or to replace medical advice, so be sure to check with your physician before beginning any treatment for pain or discomfort. The foregoing are suggestions to lower the risk, but will not eliminate the risk of providing medical advice. Also, before operating any product, you should always read the product's instruction manual for a complete list of instructions and warnings.

Achy shoulder? Warm it up with some heat.Achy shoulder? Warm it up with some heat.

Heat Packs

Do use heat when you have stiff joints or muscle discomfort.
Heat opens blood vessels and increases blood flow. As a result, it can help with range of motion in stiff muscles and joints and make them feel more loose and flexible again.

Don't apply heating pad directly to skin.
Always keep a thin layer between your skin and the heating element to reduce your chances of burns. For the same reason, never lay on top of the heating pad. You should apply it to the area for no longer than 20 minutes for best results.

Do try to keep a comfortable temperature when using heat.
The ideal temperature should be just hot enough that it feels warm on your skin but doesn't burn. Use an electric heating pad if possible, as it provides a steady level of heat.

Don't expect heat to be a cure all.
Heat can help you feel more comfortable, but it shouldn't take the place of other forms of treatment. Check with your doctor if you suspect a more serious issue.

Cold Packs

Do use cold packs on swelling and bruising.
Cold temperatures restrict blood vessels, which can help reduce inflammation. 

"Always keep a layer between your skin and a cold pack."

Don't apply ice for longer than 20 minutes.
Always keep a layer between your skin and a cold pack, and never leave ice on one area for too long. Be sure to remove the cold pack after 20 minutes and wait at least 10 minutes before reapplying. 

Do use cold packs within the first few days of discomfort.
Ice and cold packs should be applied within the first day or two of discomfort to help with inflammation. 

Don't use cold packs in place of medical help.
Before using any hot or cold products, always consult with your doctor first as he or she will be able to advise you on how to properly alternate between hot and cold applications to achieve the desired results for you.