- What Is It?
- Different Types
- Heat Therapy
- Cold Therapy
What is superficial heat and cold therapy?
Superficial heat and cold therapy are adjunctive therapy used for pain control and sports injury treatment. These therapies exert their effects at a depth of 1-2 cm. In general, these therapies limit tissue damage, control symptoms, and restore the function of the injured part.
Superficial heat therapy exhibits the following effects in the body:
- Dilation of the blood vessels
- Increase in cell metabolism
- Muscle relaxation
- Pain reduction due to relaxed muscle
- Sedative effect
- Reduction in the viscosity of the synovial fluid (fluid surrounding the joints) to reduce joint stiffness
- Acceleration in inflammation
Superficial cold therapy exhibits the following opposite effects as those exhibited by heat therapy:
- Constriction of blood vessels
- Numbing effect
- The decrease in blood flow
- The slowdown in the cell metabolism
- Reduction of oxygen in the injured part
- Reduced swelling
- Reduced muscle efficiency
- Pain reduction
What are the different types of heat transfer in superficial heat therapy?
The transfer of heat is generally classified into three types:
- Conductive heating: The transfer of heat takes place as direct contact with the conducting medium. Examples of conductive heating are hot water baths, hot packs, electric heating pads, and warm compresses.
- Hot packs contain silica gel in a cotton bag. These packs are placed in a hot water tank, which is controlled at a temperature of 71.1-79.4°C. The silica gel soaks a large quantity of water and has high heat capacity.
- Convective heating: The transfer of heat takes place with the help of the movement of heat (energy) through the conducting medium such as air or fluid. Examples of convective heating are fluid therapy, moist air baths, hydrotherapy, and hot-air baths.
- Fluidotherapy uses a bed of round, uniform, finely divided solids, such as glass beads, into which the temperature-controlled warm air is blown to generate a warm, semiliquid mixture. The patient’s hand, foot, or leg is immersed in the mixture for superficial heating.
- Conversion heating: In this, one energy form (light, sound) is converted into another (heat). An example of conversion heating is radiant heat. Radiant heat involves the penetration of high-energy photons into the tissues, where the energy is converted into heat.
When is superficial heat therapy utilized?
Patients with the following conditions are indicated for the application of hot packs (conductive heating):
- Painful muscle spasm
- Abdominal muscle cramping
- Menstrual cramps
- Superficial thrombophlebitis (an inflammatory process that causes a blood clot to form)
Patients with the following conditions are indicated for using convective heating:
When is superficial cold therapy utilized?
Cold therapy or cryotherapy has the primary effect of cooling the tissues. Local application of cold therapy is indicated in patients
When should be superficial heat and cold therapy avoided?
Conductive heating in the form of paraffin baths should be avoided when treating open wounds.
Convective heating should be avoided in the following situations:
- Fluidotherapy is not recommended for treating open wounds in patients.
- Hydrotherapy should be avoided in patients immediately following surgery.
- Hubbard tank (a tank used for full-body immersion) should not be used in patients who have undergone tracheostomy or any patient with a “stoma”.
- Convective heating should be avoided in patients who are pregnant.
Radiant heat is avoided in patients with the following conditions:
- Sensitivity to the sunlight
- Bleeding disorder
- Decreased sensation
- Acute inflammation
Cryotherapy is avoided in patients with the following conditions:
Latest Arthritis News
Daily Health News
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top Heat and Cold Applications for Treatment Related Articles
Ankle Pain (Tendonitis)Ankle pain is commonly due to a sprain or tendinitis. The severity of ankle sprains ranges from mild (which can resolve within 24 hours) to severe (which can require surgical repair). Tendinitis of the ankle can be caused by trauma or inflammation.
16 Back Pain Truths and MythsWhich mattress is best for back pain? Back pain conditions are very common. Learn the causes of upper and lower back pain. Find the truth and get the facts behind back pain myths, remedies, causes and treatment.
Chest Pain or Heart Attack QuizWhat causes chest pain? If you have chest pain, does it mean you're having a heart attack? Take the quiz to learn what diseases and conditions may be responsible for pain in your chest.
Coccydynia (Tailbone Pain)Coccydynia is an inflammation of the bony area (tailbone or coccyx) located between the buttocks. Coccydynia is associated with pain and tenderness at the tip of the tailbone between the buttocks. Pain is often worsened by sitting. There are many causes of tailbone pain that can mimic coccydynia including: fracture, pilonidal cysts, infection, and sciatica. Treatment methods include medication and rest.
Elbow PainElbow pain is most often the result of tendinitis, which can affect the inner or outer elbow. Treatment includes ice, rest, and medication for inflammation. Inflammation, redness, warmth, swelling, tenderness, and decreased range of motion are other symptoms associated with elbow pain. Treatment for elbow pain depends upon the nature of the patient's underlying disease or condition.
Foot PainFoot pain may be caused by injuries (sprains, strains, bruises, and fractures), diseases (diabetes, Hansen disease, and gout), viruses, fungi, and bacteria (plantar warts and athlete's foot), or even ingrown toenails. Pain and tenderness may be accompanied by joint looseness, swelling, weakness, discoloration, and loss of function. Minor foot pain can usually be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation and OTC medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Severe pain should be treated by a medical professional.
Foot Pain SlideshowLearn about common causes of foot pain such as bunions, corns, athlete's foot, plantar warts and more. Get the latest information on treatments for foot pain.
Hamstring Muscle PictureThe prominent tendons at the back of the knee. See a picture of Hamstring Muscle and learn more about the health topic.
How Painful is a Lumbar Puncture?A lumbar puncture (LP) procedure, also called a spinal tap, spinal puncture, thecal puncture, or rachiocentesis, collects cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the lumbar region of the spine by inserting a needle between two lumbar vertebrae. The CSF is analyzed for diagnosing life-threating conditions such as cancers and tumors of the brain or spinal cord; bleeding around the brain; inflammatory diseases such as meningitis, encephalitis and syphilis; autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis; and increased fluid pressure from hydrocephalus.
Knee PainAcute injuries, medical conditions, and chronic use conditions are causes of knee pain. Symptoms and signs that accompany knee pain include redness, swelling, difficulty walking, and locking of the knee. To diagnose knee pain, a physician will perform a physical exam and also may order X-rays, arthrocentesis, blood tests, or a CT scan or MRI. Treatment of knee pain depends upon the cause of the pain.
Low Back Pain (Lumbar Spine Pain)There are many causes of back pain. Pain in the low back can relate to the bony lumbar spine, discs between the vertebrae, ligaments around the spine and discs, spinal cord and nerves, muscles of the low back, internal organs of the pelvis and abdomen, and the skin covering the lumbar area.
Muscle CrampsMuscle cramps are involuntarily and forcibly contracted muscles that do not relax. Extremely common, any muscles that have voluntary control, including some organs, are subject to cramp. Since there is such variety in the types of muscle cramps that can occur, many causes and preventative medications are known. Stretching is the most common way to stop or prevent most muscle cramps.
Neck Pain (Cervical Pain)Neck pain (cervical pain) may be caused by any number of disorders and diseases. Tenderness is another symptom of neck pain. Though treatment for neck pain really depends upon the cause, treatment typically may involve heat/ice application, traction, physical therapy, cortisone injection, topical anesthetic creams, and muscle relaxants.
Nerve Pain SlideshowLearn about nerve pain symptoms, causes, and treatment options. Discover medications and natural remedies to relieve nerve pain.
OA of the Knee ExercisesLearn about osteoarthritis and exercises that relieve knee osteoarthritis pain, stiffness and strengthen the knee joint and surrounding muscles through this picture slideshow.
Pain Management: Musculoskeletal PainNatural menopause is the permanent ending of menstruation that is not brought on by any type of medical treatment. For women undergoing natural menopause, the process is described in three stages: perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. However, not all women undergo natural menopause. Some women experience induced menopause as a result of surgery or medical treatments, such as chemotherapy and pelvic radiation therapy.