Self Treatment of Muscular Pain with Heat or Cold

22 October, 2010 at 22:39 2 comments

There are many effective natural self treatments for common ailments which can be readily be found in most households without the need for popping into a local pharmacy.  In fact, there are many of these natural types of remedies which were in common use and remain as effective (if not more so but without side effects or overdosing issues) as any modern commercially available alternative, it’s just that most of us have grown up with the modern equivalent not knowing that there was nothing wrong with the natural alternative from yesteryear – just asking your grandparents should be proof enough of this!

One such natural remedy is the use of moist heat or cold for muscular and soft tissue aches and pains.  There is clear distinction of when heat should be used and when cold should be used, sometimes a alternating or contrast bathing procedure maybe followed, but the important thing to remember is that heat should not be used on any swollen area or an acute injury – an acute injury is one that has occurred within the past 48 hours.

So starting off with the use of heat for chronic muscular pain.  The best type and source of heat for soft tissue related pain is usually moist heat and this can be easily sourced from a hot damp flannel held in the area of pain in order to sooth it.  The heat also encourages increased blood flow into the area which brings in with it new nutrients to replace the pain causing toxic stagnated blood that can build up and get trapped in over tense muscles and soft tissues.  The temperature of the damp flannel should be hot enough to produce a deeply penetrating and soothing effect, but obviously without causing scolding. Ways of achieving this can be as simple as pouring boiling hot water over a flannel in bowl and leaving it to soak for a little bit, or placing a cold damp flannel inside a polythene bag and popping it into the microwave for just a few seconds.  Apply the hot damp flannel in the required places and hold it there still or dab and move it around occasionally as you feel it necessary occasionally for between 5 to 10 minutes.  Do this 3 times a day; morning, noon and night over a week period and see how you go.  If you find that by doing this that the pain decreases over time carry on beyond the week and as often as necessary, but if things don’t get any better at all it would be wise to seek medical attention before the week is up.

Many people are familiar with the use of cold ice packs (or more usually supermarket packs of frozen vegetables such as peas) as first aid in the case of acute injuries of muscles, tendons or ligaments.  So, in the first 48 hours it can be very beneficial to the healing process to apply a source of icy coldness to an injured area in order to alleviate pain.  Ice is also very beneficial for any type of swelling (whether acute or chronic) as the cold encourages the blood vessels to contract and thus squeeze out excess fluid that might be causing swelling.  When using ice cubes as the source of cold during a treatment, keep them moving and circulating around the affected area for between 5 to 7 minutes or until the area turns a rosey pink colour, then leave to rest.  Carry on with this method of ice application as necessary throughout your day in order to reduce pain and swelling.  If an affected area is quite large, the use of water frozen into a paper cup may be more effective, just peel back the sides in order to expose the ice and hold the cup from the base, this keeps the fingers that are holding the cup from getting damp and numb but also enables a longer lasting application of ice to a larger surface area.  Consider having these paper cups of frozen ice ready in your freezer as a standby!

It is also sometimes effective to contrast bath an area, starting off with 5-7 minutes of cold work as described in the paragraph above, followed immediately by 5-7 minutes of moist heat as previously described, then going back to cold for 5-7 minutes once again and then ending with heat again for 5-7 minutes.  This causes a pumping and flushing action to be set-up as the blood vessels are encouraged to contract and squeeze out blood and toxins during the cold phase, whilst the heat phase encourages fresh blood to flow back in and fresh nutrients to be made available to cells and tissues as the blood vessels are encouraged to open back up.  Contrast bathing is ideal for sub-acute pain, this is where the 48 hour or so duration of acute injury has passed by but where some swelling might still exist.  Sometimes, certain injuries lapse into sub-acute from being chronic, once again, contrast bathing as described here is ideal for encouraging beneficial flushing actions of the blood circulation to the troubled area and ultimately this will have a beneficial effect and act as a naturally effective method of pain management.

The appropriate use of heat and cold (as well as contrast bathing) as partially described here are just a small part of a repertoire of highly effective soft tissue pain management and pain resolution techniques that are used as an integrated part of a typical clinical massage session.  Specially sourced volcanic basalt stones are used instead or as an alternative to the hot damp flannels and ice cubes; these stones which once heated or cooled retain a stable temperature for between 20 to 30 minutes which allow these sources of heat or cold to be used for longer and more effectively without needing to re-heat or re-cool allowing for more deeply penetrating effects.

For more information on clinical massage and further self care articles, subscribe to this blog (top left hand side of this page).  If you live in or near Exeter (UK), contact Henry at ISCA Therapies (www.isca-therapies.co.uk) on info@isca-therapies.co.uk for your no obligation consultation or to book your clinical massage appointment series which will effectively put you back in charge of your own pain.

If you have any questions or comments relating to this article, I would warmly welcome your feedback below or via email.  Be well!

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2 Comments Add your own

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tony Wilson, Henry C Tang. Henry C Tang said: Self Treatment of Muscular Pain with Heat or Cold: http://wp.me/pGXyJ-4M […]

    Reply
  • 2. sakinaparekh  |  29 April, 2011 at 00:58

    this article is vey useful for homely treatment

    Reply

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Henry Tang – Therapeutic & Advanced Clinical Massage Practitioner (Crows Nest, Sydney, Australia)

Click image above to visit Spaces of Possibilities Wellness Centre, Crows Nest, Sydney, Australia.

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