Oh no, you’re hurt! Heat or cold therapy is often one of the first options recommended to treat pain or injury and help relax joints and muscles, but which one should you utilize and when? Here’s what you need to know about when to grab an ice pack or heating pad to help rid yourself of pain.
Types of Cold Therapy
Ways to utilize cold therapy include:
- Cold compresses – A cold pack can be applied to the area.
- Soaking – Immerse the affected area in cold, but not freezing, water.
- Massage with ice cubes – Rub in a circular motion some ice cubes or a cold pack for a few minutes over the injury.
You can either buy cold compresses that you keep in the freezer or make one yourself by filling a plastic bag with ice cubes or frozen vegetables. Be sure not to apply cold onto an area for more than 30 minutes at a time.
What Can Ice be Used For?
Ice can be especially helpful when treating ailments, such as:
- A recent injury
When Not to Use Ice
Cold is not suitable for all situations, so be sure to avoid cold therapy if:
- There is a risk of cramping
- The individual is already cold
- The injured area is numb
- There is an open wound or blistered skin
- The individual is hypersensitive to cold
- The individual has a vascular disease or nerve disorder
Types of Heat Therapy
Some ways that you can utilize therapy include:
- Applying heating devices to the areas – There are various products available to use, such as electrical heating pads, hot water bottles, and hot compresses or wraps.
- Soaking in a hot bath – Fill your tub with water between 92 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit and soak the injured area.
- Medications – Rubs or patches that can be placed over the area.
Keep in mind that dry heat can be applied for up to 8 hours, while moist heat shouldn’t be used for more than 2 hours. Consider applying heat to the injured area for up to 20 minutes, 3 times a day.
What Can Heat be Used For?
Heat can be useful in treating pain from ailments, such as:
- Sprains or strains
- Warming up stiff muscles or tissue before the activity
- Relieving pain or spasms in the neck or back.
When Not to Use Heat
Though heat can be an effective treatment, it is not suitable for all types of injuries. An ailment that is already hot will only be made worse by heat therapy. Heat should not be used if:
- The skin is red, burning, or inflamed
- The injury is an open wound
- They have dermatitis
- The area is numb
- The person is insensitive to heat due to peripheral neuropathy or a similar condition
Be sure to seek expert medical attention if the injury is serious or you are in chronic pain.
Orthopaedist in Fairfield County
If you suspect you have an injury or are in pain, give the Orthopaedic Specialty group a call at (203) 337-2600 and let us know how we can help you! Don’t let that pain hold you back from living your life. Your health and safety is our top priority.