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Hot / Cold Therapy

Sometimes you just can’t beat the classics! This holds true for therapies, and hot and cold therapy are two classic recovery tools that are widely used and recognized for their therapeutic benefits. Hot and cold therapies are used to stimulate various receptors at the skin and muscles to either restrict or increase the circulation of blood at the region of application.

Bloodflow is a very useful tool with many applications. One of the uses of blood is to provide warmth to our skin, muscles, and other organs. As many of us are aware, the body is constantly in a state of regulation. When it comes to body temperature, the magic number to regulate is 98.6 degrees. In order to maintain that temperature, our body is able to restrict or promote our blood vessels to direct the warmth from our blood as needed.

When our body gets too warm, blood is sent out to our limbs and muscles and away from our vital organs. Think back to a hot day in the summer. In order for your body to keep cool in the warm environment, your body pushes blood out to the skin and away from your vital organs so they don’t overheat. Now think about a cold winter day. In cold environments, we often lose color, and become very stiff in the hands and feet. This is because our body shifts blood flow from our limbs to the core of our body in order to keep our vital organs warm and functional.

Utilizing hot and cold therapy allows us to target the flow of blood to or away from an area as desired. Heat therapy causes an increase in blood circulation at the site of application, whereas ice decreases blood flow. Both therapies provide their own unique set of benefits.

Benefits of Heat:
• Decreased pain
• Improved circulation and bloodflow
• Primes muscles to move and contract

Benefits of Ice:
• Decreased Pain
• Reduced Inflammation
• Decrease in muscle spasm and contraction

For more information about the benefits and particular uses of hot and cold therapies, check out Dr. Detweiler’s article, “Should I Heat or Ice”.

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