Your daughter runs up to you with tears in her eyes. Crying, she points to a small bruise on her arm. What do you do? If you reach for a bag of frozen carrots to slow down the bruising you were using your own form of cold therapy.
Cold therapy is a therapeutic way to slow down blood flow to an area of the body. This could be to reduce inflammation in a sore spot or to reduce pain in a recent injury. Cold therapy has a wide range of applications and today we are going to shine a light on cold therapy methods you can do in the comfort of your own home using some of the cold care items you already have. So pull out your neck wraps and Boo Boo Packs, it’s going to be fun.
Benefits of Cold Therapy
When you think of cold therapy images of athletes jumping in to ice baths and cold showers come to mind. While the Michael Phelps’ of the world may see benefit to jumping in a tub full of ice, most of us don’t have the time or the willingness. Luckily there are other less-immersive ways for us to get the benefits of cold therapy without turning ourselves in to human popsicles.
Fortunately, we can use icepacks or cold packs on ourselves instead of sinking into a tub of ice cubes. Local, on-the-spot cold therapy doesn’t require your whole body to be cold; just the affected area that needs attention. This direct application method of cold therapy can be effective in speeding up the healing process when used correctly and on the right type of injuries.
Two conditions where this type of cold therapy can be effective are inflammation from sudden injury or inflammation from chronic conditions.
Inflammation from Sudden Injury
We know what sudden injuries are: they are nasty little boo boos from falling or bumping in to things. Inflammation is one of the ways our bodies can respond to physical hurt. It’s our body’s natural way of protecting us but sometimes we need to reduce the swelling to prevent further damage (or to just keep our eyes from looking puffy). Applying an icepack or a Boo Boo Pack to a swollen area can help reduce the inflammation after the injury has occurred.
Inflammation from Chronic Conditions
This type of inflammation is caused by a repetitive motion (like typing). Cold therapy performed by applying an ice pack can help prevent swelling from after you have done the activity. So if you have a condition like carpel tunnel syndrome and you just had a busy day of typing, it could be beneficial to you to apply an ice pack before you start swelling to prevent swelling.
How Does Cold Therapy Work?
When something gets cold it usually contracts. That’s the principle of cold therapy. Your body can react to an injury by swelling up. The swelling is caused by a sudden increase in blood circulation to the point of the injury. All the extra blood is causing the area to swell. Putting an icepack on the area can cause the opposite to happen by temporarily reducing blood circulation causing the area to contract or reduce in size.
An added bonus to using an ice pack is that it can numb the area so that it doesn’t feel as painful.
Heat Vs. Cold Therapy
If cold therapy is so effective then you can just slap a cold pack on anything and be great, right? Well not quite. There are certain times when you want to use cold therapy and other times when you may want to use heat therapy (We discuss some of those times in this article about heat therapy). If you are having trouble knowing the difference here’s a short list:
Use cold therapy when:
You want to treat repetitive motion injuries caused by doing the same or similar motions to the point that it causes injury. This includes tendonitis or carpel tunnel syndrome.
You have a sudden injury like colliding with other people or falling down.
Use heat therapy when:
You want to ease tense muscles or ease the symptoms of chronic pain conditions like spasms or arthritis.
Related: A Short Guide to Using Amenity Wraps for Heat Therapy
Cold Therapy at Home
How can you get the great benefits of cold therapy at home? It’s as simple as taking your Boo Boo pack or eye pillow out of the freezer and placing it on the affected area. Remember, it takes at least an hour in the freezer to get the wrap cold enough to be effective. We recommend always storing one in the freezer so that you’ll be prepared when you need it.
A lot of people don’t know this but you can help treat a headache at home with a cold pack. If you are having severe headaches then it is definitely worth a trip to your trusted health care provider and getting it checked out. But if it is something you want to take care of at home, try an eye pillow.
When Should You Use Cold Therapy?
Here are some other times to use cold therapy that weren’t mentioned earlier:
- Puffy Under Eyes
- Ankle Sprains
- Lower back pain
- Swelling at ankles
- Stress Fractures
When Not to Use Cold Therapy
Don’t use cold packs when it would intensify the injury. For example, if you are already numb, don’t use a cold pack. It will further cause numbness and possibly increase the damage from the injury. And don’t use a cold pack if you have a condition that reduces your ability to feel regular sensations like heat or cold.
Use Cold Therapy Properly
Cold therapy can be a great way to relieve pain but it could be problematic when used for too long. To make sure you stay safe don’t use cold packs for longer than 15 to 20 minutes at a time or longer than the manufacturer’s directions. Also remember that most cold packs cannot be applied directly to the skin. Most get so cold that they cause discomfort or can even injure the skin. If it gets too cold add a layer of cloth between you and the icepack.
This is where Amenity wraps stand apart. Our herbal wraps are unique in that they don’t get freezing cold like most others. The fabric makes them soft and flexible while the flaxseed delivers a very subtle, comfortable coolness onto your skin.
The best therapy is one that works. There isn’t one cure for all pain. Cold therapy is one of several excellent tools we have to combat it. As always if you’re in doubt about which pain management tool is best for you, consult with your doctor or other health care provider that you trust.