Cold or cool applications are best used with acute conditions like sprains, strains and swelling, but can also be used for headaches, sinus congestion and chronic arthritis. The most common cold or cool hydrotherapy applications are: ice packs, foot (or arm) baths and compresses.
The first thing that most people don’t know about cold applications is that you will experience several sensation stages during a treatment. First you experience a sensation of cold, next tingling or itching, then aching or burning, and finally numbness or analgesia. The idea with cold treatments is to continue until numbness is felt then stop. Please note that if you only feel burning or aching, or feel uncomfortable, add a layer between you and the cold application, adjust the temperature a bit or simply stop the treatment.
Ice packs are great for acute sprains, strains, bruises, and pain. Application is simple, pull an ice pack out of the freezer, mould pack around the desired area, and leave pack on for 10-20 minutes. Make sure to place the ice pack over clothes or wrap it in a towel so that it does not sit directly on bare skin, and if the ice pack is too uncomfortable, cover with another layer to decrease the stimulus. Don’t have a frozen gel pack?? Not to worry, you can use ice cubes or ice chips in a Ziploc, or a bag of frozen peas. A bag of frozen peas actually works better than cubes or chips as the peas mould around the body part being iced (just make sure you don’t cook them later, lol).
Do you have a headache, sinus congestion or chronic arthritis? Cold compresses are fantastic for all these and more. Simply grab a cotton cloth, soak it in cold water, wring it out well, and apply directly to the skin on the desired area. Change the cloth regularly as it will warm up. Make sure to dry skin off after applying a cold compress so you don’t get chilled.
Ok, so finally cold or cool foot (or arm) baths. Which I have to say makes me cold just thinking about is, but cold foot baths are helpful for tired, achy feet and legs, insomnia, acute trauma, and headaches. Fill a large basin or bucket with cold water, submerge feet in water, keep in for 10-120 seconds or until aching is felt. After removing feet, dry off and put on warm socks. Take time to rest after this type of treatment.
So what is cold vs cool? A cool application is generally around 19-22C, where as a cold application is between 10-18C. Although these temperatures are ideal, as long as the temperature is at least 10C below skin temperature you will still experience benefits. Cold or cool treatments can be applied at any point during the day, but a treatment applied during your body’s morning reheating phase will cause a stronger reaction than the same treatment given later that day.
Take the time to give cold a try, find out what treatments you like best, and apply them when needed. You might surprise yourself, like I did, and really enjoy a cold treatment periodically.
Will you chill today??