Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ice vs. Heat: A Guide to Hot and Cold Therapy for Pain

Many people know that the recovery of pain or injury can be expedited by using hot and cold therapy. If a hammer catches your thumb or you get a bad bruise from a bike collision, you may have put frozen peas or a bag of ice on the injury. If your joints are achy from the flu, someone may have suggested you take a hot shower. What many people don't understand is why they ice vs. heat and in what other applications hot or cold therapy can be useful.

Cold Therapy for Pain

Cold should be applied when you wish to reduce swelling or a strong pain on an acute injury. The reason behind the swelling of any injury is too much blood is flowing to that spot. Cold is a vasoconstrictor, meaning it causes your blood vessels to narrow. The narrowed blood vessels make it so that blood cannot flow, restricting internal bleeding and reducing the swelling. Using cold therapy for pain relief is also effective because it slows the release of chemicals that cause the pain and inflammation. The cold further reduces the ability of the nerve endings to impulse decreasing the pain you are suffering.

When should I ice an injury?

  • When your doctor or physical therapist advises you to do so.
  • For the immediate treatment of acute sport injuries.
  • For overuse injuries or chronic pain. For example, a runner might apply cold to an achy knee AFTER a run.
  • Injuries that demonstrate swelling or inflammation.
  • In post-operative instances when explicitly advised by your doctor to do so.

When should cold therapy NOT be applied?

  • On an open wound.
  • Before intense physical activity as it may increase the likelihood of further injury.
  • If you suffer from Cold Hypersensitivity, including Cold Urticaria (Hives that are aggravated when cold), Cold Erythema (a rash that arises when cold) and Cold Hemoglobinuria (where red blood cells break down as the result of cold temperatures).
  • If you have been diagnosed with Raynauds Phenomenon as exposure to cold may aggravate symptoms.

One way to ice an injury is to use an ice pack or ice wrapped in a thin towel and apply it on the affected area for 10-15 minutes at a time. It is unwise to apply ice directly to the wound or sore, as this can cause frostbite to your skin cells. After applying the cold therapy for 10-15 minutes, let your skin return to a normal temperature and reapply the cold. You should do this multiple times a day for no longer than 3 days. One way to get the best results from cold therapy is to use a cold therapy unit or cold therapy wraps.

Hot Therapy for Pain

Heat is a vasodilatation and causes blood vessels to expand increasing blood flow and circulation to particular areas. This is why it is not advised to apply heat to a swollen or recent injury, as this will likely cause swelling to increase. In the ice vs. vs. heat debate, heat is best when used for a chronic pain. Heat can be used for stiff or sore muscles that have not necessarily been injured, but experience pain regularly. Another opportune time for using heat therapy is for stiff joints caused by arthritis, old age, or cold weather. When administered correctly, heat also relaxes muscle and joint tensions. Many athletes use heat therapy for problem areas before a workout as the heat increases joint tissue elasticity and stimulates blood flow.

When is heat therapy a better option than cold therapy?

  • Chronic injuries or pains that do not feature inflammation or swelling. In some instances, an athlete might use heat on a problem muscle area BEFORE exercising.
  • To relieve muscle or joint pain that does not feature significant swelling.
  • On tight muscles or muscle spasms.

You can administer heat several ways. The easiest is using a moist heat pad. This can be applied directly to the area and should be left on no more than 20 minutes at a time. Be mindful not to burn your skin or leave a heat pad on too long or while sleeping.

Using a Combination of Hot and Cold Therapy for Pain

Treating injuries isn't always a question of ice vs. heat, however. A great way to alleviate pain is to alter hot and cold treatment. This should be done once swelling has stopped, usually 2 days after the injury. Combing hot and cold therapy works together to move blood out of the affected area. This should not be done for the whole body, but rather it should be used on the extremities or isolated areas.

It is important to start and end every session with cold therapy. Each period of hot and cold treatment should last 3-5 minutes. Generally 3 periods of cold and 2 periods of heat are administered in an alternating fashion. The entire treatment should last between 15-25 minutes. You should not apply hot and cold therapy more than once a day, but it can be done for as long as necessary. It is important to use particular care when administering heat as to prevent burning of the skin. Hot and cold therapy systems are a common and simple way to self-administer the therapy.

About MMAR Medical: MMAR Medical Group Inc. is a premier supplier of high quality medical products including a wide selection of cold and hot therapy systems, and injury solutions including braces and wraps.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

World Cup Round Up: Four Players to Watch in 2014

This year, 32 national soccer teams will compete for the 2014 World Cup in front of some of the most avid soccer fans in the world throughout Brazil. The amount of individual talent on each team is fantastic and will be the key deciding factor in many games in the upcoming tournament. Look out for these players to be making an impact in big games this year.

Jozy Altidore

As one of the younger members of the US National Team, we're looking for Altidore to add energy into a team of veterans. Altidore had a career high 8 goals (including one hat trick) in international play last year, and if he can bring that momentum into the World Cup, the US could possibly make it through the group of death. The USA opens against Ghana, which on paper, is the least challenging of the group. This should give Jozy the opportunity to find his rhythm.

Lionel Messi

Messi is a goal scoring machine and captain of the Argentina national team. To beat Argentina, you have to stop Messi, and you can be sure to see every team employ their best defensive players and tactics to minimize his impact. Still, Messi is known for his incredible dribbling and ability to penetrate defenses, so the world will be sure to see some spectacular play out of him.

Manuel Neuer

Neuer is one the most (if not the most) talented goalkeepers in soccer today and will pose a challenging last line of defense to anyone that has to face him. Germany is a favorite for many in this year's tournament, provided they don’t have any slip-ups in their challenging group stage, and Neuer is a crucial piece to their squad.


Neymar da Silva Santos JĂșnior is the standout offensive player on Brazil, and it’s difficult to say he won't be the most watched player in the 2014 World Cup. As a star player on the host country’s national team, he will have enormous pressure on his shoulders but as a member of FC Barcelona, it's nothing he's not used to. It will be difficult to face a player of his caliber on his home turf with the entire country behind him.

MMAR Medical provides injury solutions for a variety of sports including soccer braces for supporting knees and ankles during the game. Visit our store for our complete selection.