Cold or Warm Compress for Pain Relief? They Work Better This Way

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Got your ankle sprained? Feeling knee pain after a long walk? A chronic muscle pain troubles you again? Maybe these pains are not serious enough to require a pain-relief pill, and you want to feel better by a cold or warm compress.




Cold or warm: effects


It is generally agreed that ice is used when an injury first happens. Cold compress can relieve the pain by numb the affected area. It can also limit swelling and inflammation, and reduce bleeding.


Hot compress is usually applied to decrease joint stiffness and muscle spasm. It can also help resolve inflammation since the warm temperature can enhance your blood circulation.




Cold or warm: situations


There are different situations when you should apply cold or warm compress.


For cold compress:


Immediately after acute condition, such as knee pain after a long walk.


Immediately after a sprain, swelling or bruising, such as tendonitis.


Any bleeding wound, including gum and nose bleeding.


Insect bites.


For eye bags.




For hot compress:


Arthritis and other long-standing menstrual pain.


Two to four days after an acute injury, such as a sprain, fracture, etc.










Cold or warm: methods


The traditional approach of cold compress is 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off right after you get injured. On the following 1 to 2 days, you can apply 20 minutes every 2 or 3 hours.


You can use a plastic bag of crushed ice, a reusable ice pack, or even a bag of peas that can be refrozen for use again. But remember to place a thin towel between the ice pack and your skin.



Once the swelling of an injury is gone, you can switch to warm compress. The heat eases discomfort and promotes healing. It works especially for chronic condition like arthritis, soothing your achy joints and lessening your pain.


The schedule of warm compress is the same as cold compressing.


Use a heating pad or a reusable heat pack which you can warm in the microwave to start your warm compress. Similar to cold compress, protect your skin with a thin towel, and don’t make the temperature too high.


A warm shower or bath can also help to release your pain.


What you need to notice


Although cold and warm compresses are common home remedies, talk to your doctor if your injury is serious, for example, when you have a lot of swelling or pain. If you have any chronic health conditions, including any that prevent you from feeling hot and cold, like neuropathy, often from diabetes, you certainly need to consult your doctor first.

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These messages are for mutual support and information sharing only. Always consult your doctor before trying anything you read here.
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