Category Archives: Pain Management

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Feeling Hot, Feeling Cold, Feeling Better?

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If you’ve been in physical therapy before, you may remember your physical therapist using hot or cold on the affected area. But why? And how do heat and cold help with injury repair and recovery?


Hot Stuff

The practice of using warmer temperatures to aid healing is called vasodilation. Heat draws blood to an area, increasing oxygen and nutrient availability while more swiftly carrying away waste.21291155_l Heat also relaxes tense muscles, reduces muscle spasms, and prepares those muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints for exercise and stretching.


There are many ways heat therapy can be applied. Dry or moist heat sources include: heating pads, compresses, paraffin, hydrotherapy/whirlpool (where the affected area is immersed in water), and chemical/gel packs. It’s important not to leave any heat therapy in place too long (no more than 20 minutes) or to use too hot a heat source, as burns or other damage could occur. Heat therapy should feel warm and may dull aches and pains, but never apply anything hot to the point of discomfort.


Cold as Ice

Actually, applying ice directly to the skin is a terrible idea. But cold therapy, or cryotherapy, can be incredibly helpful by producing vasoconstriction, which slows circulation. By slowing circulation, the body is encouraged to decrease swelling in a muscle or joint, or prevent swelling after an exercise.


Cold therapy is usually applied with commercial cold packs, ice cubes (though never directly against the skin), iced towels/compresses, and forms of hydrotherapy/whirlpool. Like heat therapy, cold therapies should be applied for a limited amount of time, no longer than 15 minutes, to prevent pain or damage. As cold is applied, you may feel cold, then a hot sensation, then an ache, and finally numbness.


For Professional Use Only

When used properly, heat therapy and cryotherapy can be an invaluable part of managing your discomfort during physical therapy and speeding your recovery. It is important to have your hot and cold therapies administered by a physical therapist in order to make sure you get the correct treatment and duration, as well as to maintain your safety. Request an appointment today to start using hot and cold therapies!

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doctor speaking with patient about Electrotherapy

Electrotherapy for Pain Relief: TENS

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Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is among several non-invasive treatments designed to alleviate pain in the muscles, joints, and bones. TENS is a conservative, relatively simple and time efficient therapy in which a small device is used to administer low-voltage electrical current to affected areas.  It may sound new-fangled, but TENS has roots in a long historical tradition of electroanalgesia going as far back as ancient Egypt, where electric eels were used to dull pain.

TENS devices are a lot more effective--and less slimy--than these guys.

TENS devices are a lot more effective–and less slimy–than these guys.

How It Works

TENS devices may vary, but usually include two electrodes which are placed at the site of the pain to create a current. It’s theorized that the current stimulates the nerves in the area and alters the signals they’re sending to the brain, so that instead of pain the brain reads something else. The application of this treatment may also encourage the body to produce endorphins, which in turn relieve pain.


TENS is used to relieve chronic pain in specific problem areas, such as the neck or lower back.  It’s often suggested to help treat problems that occur with osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, tendinitis, and bursitis. With proper instruction, many patients can do TENS at home; however, it’s important that a medical professional first trains them in the appropriate technique and safety precautions.

Interested in learning if TENS may be right for you? The Advanced Physical Therapy of Freehold pain management specialists can help explore and understand the most effective treatment options for your condition. Request an appointment to learn more.

Sprains, strains, fractures, oh my! Pain and impaired mobility are serious business, but there is hope. At Advanced Physical Therapy of Freehold, our professional therapists collaborate with physicians to provide care that alleviates pain, restores function, and gets you back in the game faster. We encourage you to learn more about our team — and what we do best.