Using Ice or Heat for Injuries

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We’ve all heard of the at home remedy where cold and hot compresses can be used to treat injuries. However, not everyone knows exactly when to use ice or heat therapy, particularly for aches and pains. After all, these at home remedies work in different ways to support your body’s healing process. 

Cold Therapy

When you apply an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas to a twisted ankle or bruise, you’re using cold therapy. As the “I” in RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation), cold therapy has become one of the most common home remedies for pain and injuries. 

Cold therapy works by limiting the blood flow to the injured area, which decreases inflammation and swelling. It may also temporarily reduce nerve activity and ease the pain. However, you should only apply cold therapy for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. By exposing the affected area to extreme cold for longer than 20 minutes, it may damage the tissues. 

Generally, cold therapy should only be used for acute pain and injuries along with swelling, and it should never be used on stiff joints and muscles. Additionally, if you have sensory disorders or diabetes, you should avoid cold therapy entirely as you may not be able to feel tissue damage if it occurs. 

Heat Therapy 

Heat therapy works in the opposite way to cold therapy. It increases circulation to the targeted area and relaxes the muscles. This is an excellent way to increase flexibility in stiff muscles and joints. By releasing muscle tension, heat therapy can also help resolve pain. 

Unlike cold therapy, which should only be used for a maximum of 20 minutes, heat therapy can be used for 30 minutes or longer. However, it is not recommended for bruises, swelling, or open wounds. Additionally, patients with existing medical conditions including diabetes, vascular diseases, dermatitis, multiple sclerosis, and deep vein thrombosis should avoid heat therapy because of a heightened risk of complications. 

At Hernando Orthopaedic, we will develop a treatment plan to help you overcome a wide range of injuries and joint conditions. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!