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Posted September. 04, 2006 06:51,   


Many people associate “packs” with heated towels, but in some cases you need to use ice packs to lessen swelling and pain. For most emergencies, ice packs are applied before hot packs.

Professor Kim Yong-uk at Severance Rehabilitation Hospital advises, “For cramped muscles hot packs are best, but for bleeding, infections, or edema, ice packs should be administered first.”

Ice packs contract the blood vessels in the damaged area and lessen internal bleeding. There is also an anesthetic effect that relieves severely traumatized muscles, joints, or ligaments. Itching from mosquito bites can be treated with ice packs.

On the other hand, hot packs expand the blood vessels on the affected area and aid blood circulation. This supplies needed nutrients to the injury and helps healing.

Degenerative arthritis that comes from aging brings on continuous pain from the erosion of the cartilage. Since the pain stems from decreased blood flow, hot packs are effective in getting the blood circulation going. The early hours of the morning are when the knee temperature is at its lowest, so massage a heat wrap onto it.

The right temperature for hot packs depends on the type of pack you’ll be using. For physical therapy at hospitals, a hot pack is heated to 75 degrees and wrapped in 7 layers of towels before being placed on the skin. Also, hydropathic therapy requires partial submersion to be heated to 46 degrees and full-body baths to be 39.

Electric heat pads for home use can be turned up to about 50 degrees for topical remedy. Professor of Rehabilitation Hwang Ji-hye at the Samsung Medical Center says, “Patients with vascular diseases like diabetes, telangiectasia, or Buerger’s Disease are prone to burns from hot packs because of dulled senses. Burns on the knee or the anklebone from heat pads or infrared lamps are the most common.” 20 to 30 minutes is recommended for hot packs.

It is difficult to control the temperature of ice packs. Mostly they are frozen and wrapped in layers of towels. Ice could be put into plastic bags and wrapped in towels, or placed in separately sold ice pack containers. As with hot packs, the proper timing for ice packs is 20 to 30 minutes. An easy ice pack can be made by pouring water into a paper cup and rubbing it on the affected area for 10 minutes. Coldest isn’t always the best. If you can, 6 to 7 degrees is ideal. Ice placed directly on the skin may damage and worsen the area.

The para-aminosalicyclic acid on the market, better known as PAS, does not provide blood circulation or anesthetic effects through hot or cold packs, but through spraying painkillers on the skin to be absorbed. So the “packs” being sold over-the-counter actually do not affect the temperature of the skin; it is the menthol that comes into contact with the skin which gives the feeling of heat or cold.

Depending on the medicine, PAS patches should be applied once every one or two days.