If you ever played sports, you know that if you get an injury ice is the first thing you reach for. Which for most sports injuries ice right after you are hurt is one of the best ways to prevent swelling getting out of hand and reduce a bit of the pain. RICE should in some form be known to you. There are different forms depending on the injury as outlined here, but it is a good general guide to follow if you have an injury from sports or just over working the muscles or a trip or fall…unless you have CRPS.
If you have CRPS (formerly RSD) you may have some issues with hot or cold. I have issues sensing hot and cold as well as extreme sensitivity to cold. Winter is now my least favorite month. The minute I get cold my whole body tenses automatically and it takes extreme mental effort to force relaxation. At first cold really didn’t affect me much but as my CRPS progressed I became more and more cold sensitive, and now heat is my refuge from pain.
Each person is unique in how their CRPS progresses and behaves, and this is very true with temperatures. “Cold” CRPS can occur, it is more rare in about 30% of recorded cases and as the name indicates the affected area is colder than normal. If you have “warm” or “hot” CRPS, which is the sort I seem to have, and is unfortunately more acute, and is characterized by a warm area or increased body temperature. I am apparently snuggle-y warm and a favorite of small children and cats because of this. People who have “hot” CRPS are in general advised to avoid cold and that is why you see this as the most prominent admonitions on sites like here, and here. From what I have found from my own experience this holds true. I tend to avoid cold and when I am hurting the first thing I think of is how I can make that area warm.
Some good warming suggestions that I have found that ease the pain are:
- Warm/Hot baths or showers – you shouldn’t be scalding yourself but warmth can help loosen stiff or spasmed muscles, but no more than 20 minutes. More and it can cause issues.
- Baths with Epsom Salts – I have a ton of these listed, pick on that fits your needs and like above no more than 20 minutes at a time.
- Heating pads – also includes rice, clay, microwaveable gel, and other heating pack type things. I love these and they sometimes are huge in alleviating pain. They also do great in helping with my migraine pain. Only downside is if you get up you have to shoo your cat or dog away from them. Those scamps!
- Warming oils – clove, ginger, eucalyptus, capsacin, wintergreen, peppermint, and lots of other oils have warming properties. These draw blood to the area and make the area feel more warm which again helps muscles to relax and ease pain. Make or buy them and apply, always be careful to avoid the eyes and sensitive areas.
- Exercise – not only is it good for you, but it gets the blood pumping to extremities and helps warm the more extreme areas (which is why you sometimes feel more stiff when you wake up and more limber after moving around).
It is good to limit heat exposure since applying heat and the removing it can shock the body with the temperature change and be just as bad as applying a cold pack. Remember if you have “cold” CRPS treatment will be different, and if you do not have CRPS make sure to use the appropriate RICE technique. If you are not sure about what to use, you should always ask a professional!