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Sickle Cell Disease: Hot & Cold Therapy for Pain & Physical Activity

November 25, 2013

Dr. James B. Herrick, a United States cardiologist, discovered sickle cell disease (SCD) in 1910; however, Africans had been suffering from it for at least 5,000 years prior to his official discovery of the disease. Sickle cell disease is a genetic disease caused by a mutation in a gene, and it affects red blood cells. Normal red blood cells are circular and flexible, which allows them to move easily through the blood vessels. Sickle cell disease causes red blood cells to be curved like a sickle (a tool that is used to cut grain). It is difficult for these pointed, inflexible, and sticky cells to travel through the narrow blood vessels. This results in cells that get stuck and are not able to carry oxygen efficiently, which can cause pain, damage to the organs, a low blood count, or anemia.

Physical activity is important if you have SCD, but it is imperative that you do not overwork yourself, that you take breaks when tired, and that you drink a sufficient amount of water.

Hot and cold therapy is an excellent way to treat SCD. A heat pack can help relieve pain associated with sickle cell disease. Hot packs work by widening blood vessels, which in turn relaxes your muscles.

An ice pack is another drug-free way to relieve pain caused by SCD. Ice packs do the opposite of hot packs. They narrow blood vessels, which reduces swelling and inflammation. Athletes with SCD need to keep their body temperature cool when working out, especially in hot, humid conditions. One example of an athlete with sickle cell disease is Ryan Clark of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He has a website called Cure League that raises money to tackle sickle cell.

All THERA°PEARL gel packs are reusable and can be used for both hot and cold therapy. The THERA°PEARL Sports Pack is a convenient way to keep cool during exercise. The Round “Pearl” Pack and Oval Pack can be heated or chilled to treat pain. If swelling of the hands and feet occur, the THERA°PEARL Contour Pack is ideal.