Is hot or cold better for sore muscles?

CNET | 9/1/2019 | Amanda Capritto
moricamorica (Posted by) Level 3
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You hit a new squat PR yesterday and now your legs are killing you -- that "can barely walk up the stairs, would rather eat lunch standing up" kind of sore. Do you ice down your quads after work or snuggle up on the couch with a heating pad?

While people often use cold and heat interchangeably (which is different than using them intermittently -- more on that below), these two types of therapy do exactly the opposite of each other: Heat promotes blood flow and cold restricts blood flow.

Heat - Cold - Relief - Muscle - Pain

Here's when to use heat and cold for the best relief from muscle pain.

Cold therapy, also called cryotherapy, reduces blood flow to an injury site. That's why people historically use ice packs after, say, banging a shin on the coffee table. The ice pack directs blood away from the injured area, reducing the severity of the inevitable bruise. But how does this affect muscle pain?

Blood - Flow - Therapy - Inflammation - Tissue

Well, by reducing blood flow, cold therapy also reduces inflammation, swelling and tissue damage. When you work out, your muscles experience microtraumas, which lead to inflammation, fluid accumulation and a bunch of other things that result in muscle soreness.

If you apply cold right after a workout, you can slow the inflammation process and reduce soreness. Cold therapy seems to be particularly effective at treating swollen or inflamed joints.

Matter - Injury - Type - Muscle - Microtrauma

No matter the injury type -- muscle microtrauma or otherwise -- cold therapy is best applied within 48 hours of an injury.

Try it: Wrap an ice pack or cold compress in a thin cloth (to avoid localized frostbite, don't apply ice directly to your skin); take an ice bath; try out whole-body cryotherapy.

Blanket - Recovery - Workouts

Something as simple as a heated blanket can help you recovery quickly from your workouts.

When to use heat therapy

Heat - Therapy

Heat therapy (which actually...
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