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Most diseases, small or big, acute or chronic, accident or infection, have one common factor - pain. In most cases, in addition to reducing the severity of the infection or the impact to various structures from the trauma, managing pain assumes a bigger role. It is only when the pain is controlled can the bigger picture of disease management be done, as the patient would be inconsolable.
To this effect, in addition to pain killers, the most inexpensive and easily available modes of pain management are heat and cold. Though all are not aware, there are specific instances where heat and cold should be used as listed below.
Heat: Some of the common modes to heat therapy include heat pads, warm baths, paraffin wax system, hot water bottles, air-activated heat pack, or warm oils. Heat acts by improving blood circulation and nutritional supply to the body parts and is best suited for stiff joints and muscle soreness.
Some common ways to heat therapy include:
- A warm shower or bath in the morning - this will ease morning stiffness and get you ready for exercise.
- Apply a heating pad on the sore/stiff areas for up to 20 minutes - Use optimal, bearable temperature to avoid skin burns.
- Wrap the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes with a moist heat pad. A wet towel can be put in the freezer and then warmed up in the microwave. Moist heat pads are also available with local pharmacies.
- Warm mineral oils can be applied to the stiff joints of hands and legs. Leave it in place for 15 to 20 minutes before washing it off.
- For sore hand and foot joints, warm paraffin wax can be applied using the equipment available at drug stores. This will help ease the pain and soreness. Soak in a warm whirlpool.
Contrary to heat therapy, cold therapy acts by reducing blood flow to the affected area and numbing the nerve endings, thereby reducing the perception of pain. It works well for acute pain cases like fresh injuries and post-exercise inflammation.
- A cold wrap with ice cubes can be applied to the painful area for about 15 to 20 minutes. This can be repeated if required after a break.
- Alternately, a wet towel can be put in a plastic bag and kept in the freezer for 15 minutes and then used as a cold pack.
- The affected joint can be submerged in a container of ice and water.
- Cold gel packs are available at stores - these won't leak, will stay cold longer and can be easily wrapped around a joint.
Cryotherapy, as cold therapy is also called, is not as effective as heat therapy, though it does provide immediate relief.
Acupressure therapy, often referred to as pressure acupuncture, is regarded as an effective method in pain management. According to popular belief, the vital energy known as ‘chi’ flows across the major meridians or energy pathways. There are 12 primary meridians or energy pathways connecting particular organs that organise a communication system across the body. Illnesses take place when any one or more of the meridians fall out of balance.
Some of these acupressure points include the following:
- Valley joints for relieving headaches: This is located in the fleshy regions between the index finger and the thumb at the highest area of the muscle when both these fingers are brought close together. The point is pressed and massaged for a few minutes and is repeated for some time. This treatment is not recommended for pregnant women.
- Pericardium for relieving nausea: This point is placed between the two tendons within the wrist, which is located at a distance of about three fingers width below the base of the palm. This point must be pressed with the middle finger for some minutes or you can also opt for acupressure wristbands from a health store and use them properly.
- Third eye region for relieving stress and chronic fatigue: Close your eyes and find out the third eye region in the knobby spot located on the bridge of the nose in between the two eye brows. You can press this point with the middle finger for some time and then release and repeat the process several times in a week.
- Sea of tranquillity for relieving emotional stress: Also referred to as the conception vessel, this area can be easily located at the centre of the breastbone and can be pressed with the palms joined. Make sure that the spine is erect and supported by a straight chair at the back. You can press it for a couple of minutes every day while taking slow and deep breaths to release emotional stress.
- Leg three miles for relieving stomach problems: The leg three miles is believed to improve digestive issues, such as diarrhoea, indigestion, bloating, nausea, constipation and vomiting. It also helps in improving the immunity system, fighting fatigue, strengthening the body and promoting general wellness. Moderate to deep pressure can be applied for a couple of seconds on a regular basis.
Acupressure, which is a traditional Chinese treatment, involves the application of pressure at specific acupressure points, which lie along the meridians of the body for promoting relaxation as well as treating illness, and can be opted for regulating and managing pain in several parts of the body.
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