Ice therapy can provide significant pain relief for many types of pain. It is most effective if it is applied soon after the injury occurs. The cold makes the blood vessels in the tissue contract, reducing circulation and thereby reducing the inflammation and swelling that occurs after an injury. Ice also can act like a local anesthetic, numbing the sore tissues. Additionally, ice slows nerve impulses to the area where it is applied, which interrupts the pain/spasm reaction between the nerves and muscles.
Heat therapy is also useful for pain relief. Heat helps to expand blood vessels, boosting circulation in the target area, which also enables more oxygen and nutrients to flow to the tissue to enhance healing. Heat also stimulates the nerves and ‘overrides’ pain transmissions to the brain. Heat therapy also helps improve flexibility by reducing the stiffness that may result from an injury or discomfort.