Why is it that western first aid generally involves cold packs and eastern generally the application of a heat pack or heat in general after an injury or inflammation? Shouldn't there be a physiologic difference as to what these two therapies do or are they the same and the difference in their use is merely cultural?

I found this article on PubMed: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4225921/ It concludes by reporting that "the application of thermo–therapy and cryotherapy accompanied with a pharmacologic treatment could relieve pain in the patients with acute low back pain." and doesn't much focus on the statistical difference between the two groups (Thermotherapy vs Cryotherapy) but just mentions once that thermotherapy patients had better results::

Thermotherapy patients reported significantly less pain compared to cryotherapy and control (p≤0.05).

Can somebody please explain to me what the physiological difference between these two interventions and perhaps an article that better explores these differences?


1 Answer 1


It somewhat depends on the type of injury, but in general a person would use cold application initially to help stop bleeding, minimize inflammation and reduce swelling. Heat would be more beneficial during the healing stage to encourage blood flow to the area. ... Plus it just feels good. Sometimes an alternating system of cold for a period of time, then heat can help to reduce swelling but also not inhibit circulation. https://www.scoi.com/patient-resources/education/articles/should-you-ice-or-heat-injury This link discusses the matter.

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