Let’s face it: It’s confusing to figure out when to apply a heating pad or when you should break out the ice pack. Thankfully, the good folks at the Cleveland Clinic have created a handy-dandy chart to help figure out what’s best for each situation.
As an example, it suggests to use ice for injuries that have occurred in the last six weeks and to use heat for more long-term injuries.
In general, though heat tends to feel more comfortable, you want to use ice for sports injuries, according to Anne Rex, a sports and exercise medicine physician.
“Heat perpetuates the cycle of inflammation and can be harmful,” she says.
Ice is also better for headaches, as it can help with the throbbing pain that often accompanies them. Heat wraps, however, are good for neck spasms that can cause headaches or make them worse.
Heat is also good for arthritis, though you’ll want to use ice for gout. Ice can also help bring down a fever.
The clinic also recommends how to use ice or heat for pain. A good rule of thumb is up to 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off.
Natural Ways To Beat Pain
If you’re someone who only suffers from minor discomfort, or you just want to look for another option, you might want to consider trying one of these natural alternatives to painkillers.
Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory that has been used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine, but it has recently been studied as an effective treatment for pain and swelling. Research out of Denmark found that ginger was superior to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Tylenol or Advil, as it blocks the formation of more anti-inflammatory compounds.
Although you might be used to spicing your food with cloves during the holiday season, cloves can also be used as a topical anesthetic, an anti-fungal remedy and even a toothache reliever. The spice contains eugenol, the chemical responsible for its pain-relieving effects.
Capsaicin, the ingredient that gives hot peppers their spicy kick, can be used topically to reduce pain, often in the form of creams. The compound depletes your body’s supply of substance P, a chemical component in nerve cells that is involved in transmitting pain signals to your brain.
This richly-colored kitchen spice has been used as a painkiller for centuries, as it is a natural anti-inflammatory. Research from The University of Arizona found that rats with joint inflammation which consumed turmeric displayed far less joint swelling than rats who didn’t ingest the herb. Turmeric is commonly used for arthritis, heartburn (dyspepsia), joint pain, stomach pain and more.
Peppermint not only smells nice, but it can also be used to treat pain relief for a number of ailments, including headaches, the common cold, infections and digestive problems. In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, peppermint also can soothe and relieve muscle soreness and pain, as it contains a significant amount of menthol.
Here’s to good health for us all!