Heat or cold for injuries

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Many individuals are still confused whether to use heat or cold for injuries. Many are already familiar on how to apply cold to an acute injury such as an ankle sprain but still uncertain when to utilize heat. It is important that you know when to use heat or cold for injuries.

Acute or chronic pain

It is important to note that there are two basic types of sports injuries.

  • Acute pain involves fast onset and often short-lived
  • Chronic pain develops in a slow manner and can be persistent or long-lasting

Acute or chronic injuries

It is important to note that acute injuries are abrupt, piercing, traumatic injuries that develop right away and cause pain. In most cases, acute injuries result to some sort of trauma or impact such as a sprain, fall or collision and the cause is obvious. Acute injuries can also cause the usual indications such as pain, redness, tenderness and warmth, swelling and inflammation. If swelling is present, it indicates an acute injury.

It is important to note that cold therapy with ice is the suitable treatment for acute injuries since it minimizes the pain and swelling.

Chronic injuries are usually subtle and develop slowly. These injuries often come and go and can cause soreness or dull pain. The usual cause is overuse but can develop when an acute injury is not treated properly and does not heal.

Close look on cold therapy with ice

It is important to note that cold therapy with ice is the suitable treatment for acute injuries since it minimizes the pain and swelling. Remember that ice is a vasoconstrictor and reduces internal bleeding at the site of injury.

When using ice to an injury, cover the ice in a thin cloth or towel and apply it over the affected area for 10 minutes at a time. Make sure that you will allow the skin temperature to return to normal before another application. The application of ice can be performed several times in a day up to 3 days.

Cold therapy is useful in managing some overuse injuries or chronic pain. The ideal way to apply ice is to use a good quality ice pack that conforms to the affected body part. Other alternatives include a bag of frozen peas or a bag of ice.

Close look on heat therapy

When it comes to heat, it is generally utilized for chronic injuries or those that do not involve inflammation or swelling. Stiff, sore, nagging muscle or joint pain can be managed with heat therapy.

Since heat increases circulation and elevates the skin temperature, heat therapy should not be used on acute injuries or those that include inflammation. Heat should be applied over the injury 15-20 minutes at a time and utilize enough layers between the skin and the heat source to prevent burns.

Just remember though that some injuries can be serious, thus a doctor should be consulted if the injury does not seem to improve within 48 hours.

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