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Are you injured? Should you use Ice or Heat for your injury treatment?

injury treatment

Whenever you are injured, you will hear people saying either “put ice” or “use heat compressions.” Hence the use of heat or ice has come down from the ages whenever there is injury involving the joints or muscles. Today also we use these methods to get relief from injury related pain without any prescriptions. But the question remains that which therapy is best suited for which injury and what may be the adverse effects if they are wrongly used.

We are going to discuss about the various uses of heat and ice/cold on different types of injuries and how they work.  What actually happens when you are injured? The fibers of the muscles, ligaments, or the tendons are disrupted. Blood supply to the tissues is also broken and the capillaries start leaking. You feel pain, stiffness and tenderness too.

Both ice and heat help to reduce pain, but remember that when there is acute pain or inflamed injury use cold, and for chronic pain or injury that has started a day back, use heat.

When to use heat:

Heat relaxes the muscles and stimulates the flow of blood and soothes the painful muscles. Thermo therapy or heat therapy is used on the following circumstances:

  • When the pain caused by an injury is persistent and has been there for sometime, heat is best for treating such chronic pain.
  • Heat should be applied before exercising when there is an ongoing injury for after exercise the pain is liable to increase.
  • Two types of heat therapies are used namely the local application of heat with hot water bag, heating pad etc on the affected areas and the systematic heat application through hot bath, sauna, hot shower or steam bath.

When to apply ice:

Ice or cold therapy is best for fresh injuries. In most cases, injuries cause inflammation by damaging the tissues and you suffer pain or redness. It instantly works on the tissues and numbs the injury that gives you relief.

  • Cold or ice should be applied only locally for acute pain and also injuries caused immediately after exercises.
  • Use of ice packs, an ice towel, ice massage, cold gel pack or even a frozen vegetable bag can relieve unbearable pain caused by fresh injury.

However it is important to remember that heat and cold therapies are only instant pain relievers but not remedies for serious injuries. A physiotherapist must be consulted for permanent cure and injury treatment.


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