Heat and cold therapy has been used for decades to treat pain and swelling, and are two of the simplest treatments available. They are considered a generally safe, effective, inexpensive and under utilized tool. Heat and ice have opposite effects when you have pain and inflammation. Heat increases blood circulation and helps to relax tight muscles, while ice constricts blood vessels and decreases blood circulation to the area (and as a result reduces inflammation and numbs pain).
Ice – The Details
- Decreases inflammation
- Decreases pain
- Reduces swelling
How does ice work?
There are several theories about how ice decreases pain. Some of them are:
1. Decreased nerve transmission in pain fibers
2. Cold raises the pain threshold
3. Cold sensations over-ride the pain sensations
4. Cold causes a release of endorphins
5. Cold reduces the activity of free nerve endings
Ice causes a narrowing of blood vessels and cools the surface of the skin and underlying tissue. This can also attribute to decrease in pain as the pressure from swelling decreases.