Hot and Cold therapy Natrona Heights, PAAt our chiropractic office in Natrona Heights, PA we often utilize ice or heat as part of our treatment. We are often asked when to use ice for neck or back pain and when to use heat for neck or back pain.

Treating Pain with Heat

Overview

As a general rule of thumb, use ice for acute injuries or pain, along with inflammation and swelling. Use heat for muscle pain or stiffness.

How it works

Heat therapy works by improving circulation and blood flow to a particular area due to increased temperature. Increasing the temperature of the afflicted area even slightly can soothe discomfort and increase muscle flexibility. Heat therapy can relax and soothe muscles and heal damaged tissue.

When not to use

If the area in question is either bruised or swollen (or both), it may be better to use cold therapy. Heat therapy also shouldn’t be applied to an area with an open wound.

People with certain pre-existing conditions should not use heat therapy due to higher risk of burns or complications due to heat application. These conditions include:

  • Diabetes
  • Dermatitis
  • Vascular diseases
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)

If you have either heart disease or hypertension, ask your doctor before using heat therapy.

Applying heat therapy

Heat therapy is often most beneficial when used for a good amount of time, unlike cold therapy, which needs to be limited.

Minor stiffness or tension can often be relieved with only 15 to 20 minutes of heat therapy.

Moderate to severe pain can benefit from longer sessions of heat therapy like warm bath, lasting between 30 minutes and two hours.

Always apply heat wrapped in multiple layers or towels to avoid burning your skin.

Never lay on or sit on heat. Always apply on top; not under.

Potential risks of heat therapy

Heat therapy should utilize “warm” temperatures instead of “hot” ones. If you use heat that’s too hot, you can burn the skin. If you have an infection and use heat therapy, there is a chance that the heat therapy could increase the risk of the infection spreading. Heat applied directly to a local area, like with heating packs, should not be used for more than 20 minutes at a time. If you experience increased swelling, stop the treatment immediately.

If heat therapy hasn’t helped lessen any pain or discomfort after a week, or the pain increases within a few days, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Takeaway

Knowing when to use cold therapy and when to use heat therapy will significantly increase the effectiveness of the treatment. Some situations will require both. Arthritic patients, for example, may use heat for joint stiffness and cold for swelling and acute pain.

If either treatment makes the pain or discomfort worse, stop it immediately. If the treatment hasn’t helped much with regular use in a few days, you can make an appointment to see your doctor to discuss other treatment options. It’s also important to call your doctor if you develop any bruising or skin changes over the course of treatment.


At our chiropractic office in Natrona Heights, PA we often utilize ice or heat as part of our treatment. We are often asked when to use ice for neck or back pain and when to use heat for neck or back pain or for at home treatments.

Treating Pain with Cold therapy

Overview

As a general rule of thumb, use ice for acute injuries or pain, along with inflammation and swelling. Use heat for muscle pain or stiffness.

How it works

Cold therapy is also known as cryotherapy. It works by reducing blood flow to a particular area, which can significantly reduce inflammation and swelling that causes pain, especially around a joint or a tendon. It can temporarily reduce nerve activity, which can also relieve pain.

When not to use

People with sensory disorders that prevent them from feeling certain sensations should not use cold therapy at home because they may not be able to feel if damage is being done. This includes diabetes, which can result in nerve damage and lessened sensitivity.

You should not use cold therapy on stiff muscles or joints.

Cold therapy should not be used if you have poor circulation.

Applying cold therapy

For home treatment, apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel or ice bath to the affected area. You should never apply a frozen item directly to the skin, as it can cause damage to the skin and tissues. Apply cold treatment as soon as possible after an injury.

Use cold therapy for short periods of time, several times a day. Ten to 15 minutes is fine, and no more than 20 minutes of cold therapy should be used at a time to prevent nerve, tissue, and skin damage. You can elevate the affected area for best results.

Always apply ice wrapped in multiple layers or towels to avoid cold burning or blistering your skin.

Never lay on or sit on ice. Always apply on top; not under.

Potential risks of cold therapy

If you’re not careful, cold therapy applied for too long or too directly can result in skin, tissue, or nerve damage.

If you have cardiovascular or heart disease, consult your doctor before using cold therapy.

If cold therapy hasn’t helped an injury or swelling within 48 hours, call your doctor.

Takeaway

Knowing when to use cold therapy and when to use heat therapy will significantly increase the effectiveness of the treatment. Some situations will require both. Arthritic patients, for example, may use heat for joint stiffness and cold for swelling and acute pain.

If either treatment makes the pain or discomfort worse, stop it immediately. If the treatment hasn’t helped much with regular use in a few days, you can make an appointment to see your doctor to discuss other treatment options.

It’s also important to call your doctor if you develop any bruising or skin changes over the course of treatment.


At our Natrona Heights Chiropractic office we are a fan of at home neck stretches to help with neck pain relief.

4 Stretches for Your Neck

Even though a stiff neck is typically caused by a relatively minor injury, such as a muscle strain or ligament sprain, the painful flare-ups can be quite sharp or burning. It is good to minimize painful movements and give a stiff neck some rest, but it is also important to keep the neck moving to avoid further stiffening or muscle deconditioning.

4 easy stretches to improve neck flexibility and function, as well as test which movements may need to be modified or avoided until the neck feels better. Some of these stretches may feel good or help reduce pain and stiffness, whereas others may not. If a particular movement starts to increase pain, immediately stop it and try a different movement.

Neck Extension (Backward Bending)

Gently extend the neck by looking upward and bringing the head backward while keeping the shoulders and back stationary. Once the head has gone back as far as it can go without increasing pain, try to hold the stretch for 5 seconds before returning the head to neutral (starting) position.

During a neck extension exercise, the stretch is felt along the front of the neck through the throat. The muscles working at the back of the neck may also be felt, from the base of the skull all the way down to the upper back.

Neck Flexion (Forward Bending)

Gradually lower the chin toward the chest and look downward while only moving the head. Once the head has been flexed forward as far as it can comfortably go, hold the stretch for 5 seconds before returning to neutral position.

The neck flexion stretch is felt throughout the back of the neck.

Lateral Neck Flexion (Bending Side to Side)

Slowly bend the head to one side, such as by bringing the left ear toward the left shoulder. During this stretch, the shoulders and back remain still while the neck flexes laterally to the side. Once the head has flexed as far as it can comfortably go to the side, try to hold the stretch for 5 seconds before returning the head to neutral position. This stretch is then repeated in the opposite direction.

When the lateral neck flexion is performed with the head bending toward the left shoulder, the stretch is felt along the right side of the neck.

Neck Rotation (Turning Side to Side)

While keeping the back straight and shoulders still, gradually turn the head to the left as far as it can naturally go without increasing pain. Once the head has reached its rotation limit, hold the stretch for 5 seconds before bringing it back to neutral position. This same stretch is then repeated to the right.

If you neck is extremely stiff, especially on one side or the other. It is recommended to only rotate the neck partway if that is all that
can be done without increasing pain.

How Often to Perform Neck Stretches

For an acute stiff neck that is particularly painful and difficult to move, it may make sense to only try each of these stretches once before giving it a rest. These stretches could then be tried again a few hours later, or perhaps the next day.

As time goes on, these stretches may start to feel more comfortable and can be increased, such as by holding the stretch positions for 10 seconds, or doing multiple sets. At each step of the way, it is important to remember that the goal is to improve neck flexibility and function, not increase pain.

After the initial neck pain and stiffness have been reduced, a more involved routine of neck strengthening and stretching might be pursued long-term to reduce the risk of having the pain return.


At our Natrona Heights Chiropractic office we are a fan of at home back stretches to help with back pain relief.

4 Stretches for Your Low Back

Back Flexion Stretch. Lying on the back, pull both knees to the chest while simultaneously flexing the head forward until a comfortable stretch is felt across the mid and low back.

Knee to Chest Stretch. Lie on the back with the knees bent and both heels on the floor, then place both hands behind one knee and pull it toward the chest, stretching the gluteus and piriformis muscles in the buttock.

Kneeling Lunge Stretch. Starting on both knees, move one leg forward so the foot is flat on the ground, keeping weight evenly distributed through both hips (rather than on one side or the other). Place both hands on the top of the thigh, and gently lean the body forward to feel a stretch in the front of the other leg. This stretch affects the hip flexor muscles, which attach to the pelvis and can impact posture if too tight.

Piriformis Muscle Stretch. Lie on the back with knees bent and both heels on the floor. Cross one leg over the other, resting the ankle on the bent knee, then gently pull the bottom knee toward the chest until a stretch is felt in the buttock. Or, lying on the floor, cross one leg over the other and pull it forward over the body at the knee, keeping the other leg flat.