When to use cold, when to use hot?

Cold and heat therapy are common and the best non-drug, natural ways to treat pain and injuries. But how do you know whether to use cold or hot for pain?

As a general rule, if an injury is red, swollen, inflamed or infected, cold should be used. Similarly, if the injury is sudden (acute pain), cold should be used. Hot or warm, on the other hand, can be used to relieve non-acute pain or to prepare the body for movement.

Different temperatures are used for different injuries and pain conditions because they have different effects. Cold numbs sore nerve endings, reduces swelling and relieves inflammation. Heat helps to relax the body, stimulates blood flow and improves tissue elasticity.