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Living Well

Why should I use hot and cold packs for injuries?

Spring is in the air, and with the temperatures warming and the world turning a refreshing shade of green, you and your loved ones are undoubtedly eager to get out and enjoy your favorite outdoor activities. Whether you're an avid gardener, love camping and hiking or thinking about a fitness regimen, the spring season is the time of year when many people overexert themselves after a winter of inactivity, which can lead to muscle strains, pulls and other related injuries.

Luckily, if you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you can prepare beforehand for any injuries that may arise in the coming season with heat and cold therapy. Hot and cold packs are among the most basic rehabilitative methods available, but they can dramatically speed up your recovery times, alleviate pain and help you get back to enjoying your favorite springtime hobbies.

Best of all, these are FSA-eligible items and ready for purchase with your tax-free funds!Let's explore the benefits of heat and cold therapy and why they can be your biggest ally this spring.

Hot packs

Heat therapy is primarily used to alleviate pain and stiffness that comes with chronic injuries, rather than ones that have arisen due to a traumatic incident, reported Sports Injury Clinic. This form of therapy is primarily used to treat chronic pain, decrease the chances of muscle spasms and promote increased blood flow to the affected area.

Hot packs can be found in numerous designs, but you must first decide between dry and moist heat therapy. Electric heating pads are preferred by some and are the easiest to apply, while moist heat methods that utilize gel may offer a deeper penetration into the muscles. These products are heated in a microwave or placed in hot water, and after reaching their desired temperatures they can be wrapped in a towel and placed on the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time.

Ultimately, both methods come down to personal preference, but they are among the most reliable and inexpensive means of treating chronic injuries with comfort and relaxation.

Cold packs

As opposed to heat therapy that is meant to treat long-term injuries, cold packs are meant to treat injuries immediately after they occur. While cold therapy can be applied using a simple towel and ice cubes, cold packs are reusable and can be found in designs that are designed to wrap around an affected area. Considering these products are FSA eligible and can be stored easily in your freezer, picking up a few this spring is a no-brainer.

According to Patient.co.uk, cold packs are specifically designed to reduce bleeding in muscle tissues to reduce swelling and the duration of bruising. Additionally, cold packs can alleviate muscle pain and spasms, as well as slowly numb the area to cut down on inflammation.

Contrast Therapy

Last but not least, many physical therapists ascribe to a method called contrast therapy, which alternates between the use of hot and cold packs to treat an injury. According to Human Kinetics, a cold-to-warm ratio of 1:3 or 1:4 minutes is ideal, and in many cases this method has sped recovery times for injured individuals. The best way to illustrate this is by looking at hot and cold packs as a pump: heat therapy will dilate blood vessels to increase blood flow of nutrient-rich blood, while cold therapy will constrict blood vessels and allow them to soak up as many nutrients as possible, thereby speeding the healing process.

Spring is already here, so be sure to visit FSAstore.com for all of your seasonal FSA-eligible products from hot and cold packs to bandages to sunscreen. Make sure you don't skip a beat this spring and take advantage of your FSA!