Heat and Cold Therapy

Heat and Cold Therapy Sometimes there is a dilemma on when to use heat and when to use cold. Mostly it depends on if the problem is a recent one or if it has been a long-term problem.

A long term or chronic problem is one that comes and goes and you my have had for a long time. They usually produce a dull pain or soreness. They may be caused by disease like arthritis or over use of a specific joint, like tennis elbow.

A recent or acute problem is when there is a sudden injury to an area. These are usually pretty obvious and may be caused from a fall; by trauma - like a auto collision; or from a sports injury, like a sprain. The pain from an acute injury is usually more severe and sudden but it is possible that it may take a few hours to develop. Some swelling and redness is usually associated with these types of injuries.

Cold Therapy vs. Heat Therapy

Cold Therapy is usually suggested for recent or acute injuries. The cold constricts the blood vessels to the area therefore reducing inflammation and swelling. Cold also helps reduce the pain. – Apply ice or a cold pack to the area for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. It is important to let the area return to “normal” temperature before you apply the cold for a second or third time. You can apply the ice/cold several times per day for the first three days if necessary to keep the swelling down.

Cold therapy is also used to reduce inflammation after a “workout” or sporting event, such as running. Icing an area before the work out is not recommended.

There are many types of ice packs in the market. One that is flexible is best so that it conforms to the body part. For a quick solution use a frozen bag of peas or a bag of ice.

Heat Therapy

Heat is used when there is a chronic injury or pain. There are many instances when heat relieves pain in joints, and muscles. Arthritis, bursitis and sore, stiff muscles just to name a few. Heat before exercise is recommended if your have chronic pain or stiff, achy muscles and joints. Heat will bring more blood to the area which aids in relaxation of the surrounding area. It is not recommended to use heat after exercise. Cold is better at this time as mentioned above.

To not apply heat when there signs of swelling or inflammation. Heat should be administered 15- 20 minutes at a time. Again, as in cold therapy let the area return to normal before applying heat again. Of courser, care should be taken to make sure that burns do not occur. Long term use of heating pads, over night for example can lead to more serious problems.

If after heat and cold therapy is not working after 2 or 3 days you may want to seek the advice of your doctor.

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