Heat or Cold – Do you know which one to use and when?

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Heat or Cold – Do you know which one to use and when?


Heat Treatments

When to Use Heat

Heat treatments should be used for chronic conditions to help relax and loosen tissues, and to increase blood flow to the injured area. Use heat treatments for chronic conditions, such as soreness and pain from overuse, especially before participating in activities. Do not use heat therapy immediately after activity, and do not use heat immediately after suffering an injury.

Heat should be avoided at least for 48 hours depending upon the severity of the injury. Heating can be accomplished by taking a warm shower for 10-15 minutes or applying a warm, wet towel. When using heat treatments, only use moderate heat in order to avoid burns. Actually, 10 degrees above normal body temperature is very effective. Never leave heated towels on for extended periods of time, or while sleeping. You can always give us a call and we can help you determine proper use of heat or ice.

Heat Helps

  • Relax and loosen muscles
  • Encourages the circulation of blood to the joint
  • Helps the body to sooth and heal supporting soft tissues

When to Use Ice

Ice is most commonly used for acute injuries. During the first 48 hours after an injury, swelling is a natural part of the healing process. However, the swelling also needs to be controlled and this is why you should be using ice treatment during this time. Ice packs or an ice bath can help minimize swelling around the injury. Decreasing swelling around the injured area will help to control the pain. Ice packs are often used after injuries such as an ankle, shoulder, or knee sprain. Ice treatments may help control inflammation for chronic injuries such as tennis elbow; however, you should never ice a chronic injury before activity. Never apply ice for more than twenty minutes at a time, in order to avoid freezing skin or tissues. Best rule of thumb 20 minutes on 40 minutes off.

Contact Dr. Linda at 773-385-9432 to learn more about heat treatments.

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