Would it be good to use a heat pack or ice pack for my body pain

November 22, 2018

Would it be good to use a heat pack or ice pack for my body pain?

To relieve pain from an accident or wound, we often use a heat pack or ice pack. However, many times we are unaware of which method is appropriate for our condition and in fact, among our patients many are unaware of the correct healing method after an accident leading to their symptoms deteriorating. In this issue, we will discuss some of the more obvious differences between heat packs and ice packs so that you can prevent any “worsening” that may occur after an accident or after treatment.

Why does compression of heat or ice help pain relief?

I will briefly discuss neurology to help understand this part. Pathway of pain

The definition of pain is “painful and unpleasant sensation and emotional experience associated with actual injury or potential tissue damage,” and pain does not really exist.

Pain is the result of understanding an unpleasant sensation or signal due to damage to a tissue in the brain and understanding it as a biomedical signal. So even if the tissue is damaged, you feel that the pain is not in the damaged tissue, but in your head or brain.

Signals or stimuli from damaged tissue are transmitted to the brain through the spinal cord, which is part of the central nervous system. This transmission can take place in many parts of the spinal cord, but it is transmitted to the brain on a “spinothalamic tract”, which is located on both sides of the spinal cord.

This information is passed along the spinal cord to the organs of the brain called “thalamus”, which are transmitted to the primary somatosensory cortex located in the middle of the brain, and the brain recognizes it as pain. In addition to pain, the information transmitted to the brain by this vertebral artery is the sensation of touching or rubbing with the hand, pressure to press, or temperature change.


Pain gate theory The process of generating and moving pain in the body is really complex. The simplest theory that can be explained is the pain gate theory that the stimulation of the nerves appears as a different reaction if it goes beyond certain limits. In a simple way, if you accidentally hit somewhere while walking you are most likely to rub the area with your hands to stimulate the feeling of the rub and lower the reaction to the pain. In a similar way, given a temperature change near the damaged tissue, it is known that an increase in sensory transmission with temperature changes, lowers the amount of pain information that can be transmitted to the brain along the vertebrae.

Ice Pack VS Heat Pack

Compression using a heat pack or cold pack will give pain relief as there is a change in temperature. However, both cold and warm packs have a similar effect of lowering pain, but both have different uses. If your body is warm, your blood vessels will expand so that your blood flows well, supplies oxygen and nutrients to your wound, and causes active cell division in damaged tissues to speed up your recovery. However, if there is inflammation or infection and blood vessels are enlarged and blood flow is increased, not only oxygen / nutrients but also stress hormones or inflammatory hormones are supplied to the injured area, By using an ice pack, you can constrict blood vessels and prevent excessive supply of unnecessary inflammatory hormones.

Effective ice pack and hot pack use

For most wounds and accidents, it is effective to treat the damaged areas within 72 hours with cold water or an ice pack. After 72 hours, the sympathetic response to the body is lowered and the response of the parasympathetic nerves increases, allowing the body to be more careful in recovering the wound. In this case, it is most effective to promote the blood circulation and to carry out the cold and warm treatment so as to remove the immuno-complex that may occur after cell division. At this time, it is best to give about 20 minutes cold compression and 20 minutes warm compression, repeating three times. If it is over 20 minutes, it may cause burn or frost on the skin so it is better to keep it for 20 minutes. Also, it is better to use the packs without lotion or water on the skin. This is because when lotion or the water is on the skin, the effect of conduction increases, so if you use an ice pack or a hot pack, the risk of burns / frost may increase.

It is possible to effectively reduce the pain by simply cooling and warming, but symptoms may worsen depending on use. Therefore, please be aware of the exact effects and applications of ice/heat packs, and use it in the right way to maintain maximum therapeutic effect.

From the next issue, I would like to inform you about the musculoskeletal problems that you have been wondering about and want to know about. Please give us feedback to info@backpro.co.nz about your musculoskeletal problems and we can discuss further.

Copyright BACKPRO 2017. All rights reserved.