When to use hot and cold therapy can be confusing to people who experience sports injuries such a strains, sprains, and bruises. Most experts in sports medicine advise using both treatments, depending on the injury.
Heat and cold are non-invasive treatments that help to alleviate pain and swelling. They are applied externally with the temperature providing temporary relief for the injury.
Cold applications restrict blood vessels and work to reduce swelling from sprains and bruises. This slows circulation and can reduce inflammation and muscle spasms. It may feel uncomfortable at first.
An ice pack or gel pack wrapped in a thin towel can be used for the first 24-48 hours after a muscle sprain or bruise. It should be used in 20-minute intervals. Remove the ice pack for at least 10 minutes after use.
A sprained ankle or wrist can also be wrapped in an elastic bandage and the cold pack can be applied over the covered area.
Heat is used for strains and pulled muscles. The heat offers relief while opening blood vessels. This sends more oxygenated blood to the injured area to promote healing.
Heat can soothe pulled muscles, tendons, and ligaments. It can relax nerves and prevent spasms while actually increasing your range of motion. Heat feels good.
Sports medicine specialists suggest applying comfortable warmth for 20-minute intervals, similar to cold packs. Be careful not to fall asleep on a heating pad.
Microwaved heat packs and hot water bottles are available for heat therapy. Various muscle rubs also supply a form of penetrating heat to muscles.
Heat is not recommended for people with diabetes, open wounds or stitches as it can encourage bleeding. Cold compresses may be recommended instead.
When To Use Cold And Heat
Sprains and bruises can benefit from both cold and heat. Use cold first to reduce swelling and then apply heat for pain relief and healing. You may be advised to use a muscle rub, gel or cream.
You should consult with a sports medicine specialist, including a physical therapist, for serious muscle and joint injuries. An x-ray may be necessary to determine the extent of the injury and to check for fractures. They can direct you regarding the correct use of cold and hot therapies for your injury.
Consult 3D Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Indian Harbour Beach, FL for sports injuries to children and adults.