HOT and COLD does it make a difference?
Recently I read a post written in a well known massage publication by a massage and cupping "expert" that firmly stated that hot and cold temperatures were no part of Western Medicine and that they made absolutely no scientific sense.
The only reason why I can see that the person would have written that, would have been to give their approach more credibility... except that it is simply incorrect.
Certainly in East Asian Medicine we place more emphasis on heat and cold than is placed on a Western approach - especially in the massage and bodywork world. One of the major assessment tools that we use when doing an intake with our clients is to ask not only how their body feels to them in terms of temperature, but also the temperature that they prefer. This is a great indicator of whether their body leans more toward a regular temperature, or whether it is a higher or lower temperature. There is a lot of science and research coming out that also demonstrates tendencies toward disease when basal body temperature is out of balance... but that is another story.
What I learned in science class is that heat expands and cold contracts. When we apply that to blood circulation, we can say that blood circulates more quickly when the temperature is higher and more slowly when it is cold. We can also say that if the walls of a blood cell are expanding during some kind of treatment (like cupping) the potential for cupping marks and extravasation (blood cells exiting the vessel) could potentially be greater.
Of course this statement needs to be qualified, as we know that a persons body temperature can only vary a very, very small amount. We also must qualify that there could be other factors that effect this circulation but for the sake of this particular conversation we will stick with heat and cold.
Rembember how we used to think that we should treat an injury? If you went to school before 2015, you would have learned the principle of RICE. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Current research demonstrates that cooling contracts and actually slows the healing process.
Movement creates circulation and kinetic activity which generates heat... Not to say that we want hot packs on the area, but certainly increasing circulation is beneficial.
There are very few situations (fracture is one) where increasing circulation is not beneficial.
In short, observing heat and cold may be a practice that is deeply rooted in East Asian Medicine, but that doesn't make it unscientific. It is a part of science that may not have been studied as deeply in "western" pathology, but research is changing all the time and we are acknowledging these studies as they occur.
That is why continuing education is such an important aspect of what we do.