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Ice or Heat for Pain?
September 03, 2014

Ice and heat are amazingly simple ways to stop many kinds of pain. You should always have both on hand at home and office, ready to work their magic.

Which is best though?

Generally, for new bouts of pain such as strained muscles or a sprained joint you should immediately apply ice. This quickly stops the pain and reduces inflammation. Do this for about 20 minutes at a time, several times a day, for 1 or 2 days. You can simply put ice cubes in a plastic bag or use something else that's already frozen, such as a bag of peas, or you can buy an ice pack that you keep in the freezer ready for use.

Lie down, or you could sit, depending on the problem, and put the ice bag/pack on the affected area. If it's an area bigger than your bag/pack then move it around every few minutes or use 2 bags/packs.

After 1 or 2 days of 20-minute icing sessions, you can start using heat. While ice contracts and reduces blood flow, heat expands and encourages blood flow. This is what you now need at the affected area... to warm it up to get the blood moving again. This can also help with any lingering pain and stiffness and it also encourages healing.

There are many sources of heat and the simplest is probably one of those bags/packs that you first put in an oven to heat up before using. There are lots of plug-in type appliances that you can buy too. I have a small, infrared heat lamp that sits on a table, which I just turn on and aim at the sore area for 15-30 minutes at a time. Depending on the problem and the type of appliance, you might use it several times a day for a couple of days or up to several weeks.

One other thing I always do when I have sore muscles or joints is to use a herbal liniment to help stop pain. There are several I recommend and I always have a bottle handy, especially when traveling. At home I would rub some liniment into the affected area (often my lower back) after a heat lamp session. This greatly adds to the overall effectiveness.

I have been using herbal liniments for over 20 years. They are long lasting, inexpensive and have multiple uses - for muscle/joint pain, headache, sinus congestion, insect bites and more. The ones I use and recommend are listed here.

Any questions let me know,


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About the Author

Matthew Scott is a professionally trained Chinese medicine practitioner from Australia. In 2000, after ten years in private practice, Matthew went to China to further his studies for a few months. He has been there ever since, immersed in the culture, raising a family and showing people worldwide the Chinese way of health.


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The content of this email is not to be considered as medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified health professional before starting or changing any health or fitness program.

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