Ooooh.. that smarts! The skinny on Hot and Cold Therapy

So you’ve been gardening, kayaking, hiking, swimming, playing tennis, digging in the garden…
Many people suffer from seasonal injuries with prolonged periods of pain. It is always best to seek the advice of a medical professional to address acute and chronic pain, but here’s what you can do in the meantime…

Cold Therapy

Cold Therapy with ice is the best immediate treatment for acute injuries because it reduces swelling and pain. It is most effective during the first 48 hours on the injured site. Ice is a vaso-constrictor that slows the blood flow to the injury site. To ice an injury, wrap ice in a thin towel and place it on the affected area for a maximum of 20 minutes. There is a risk of tissue damage going beyond the 20 minute marker.

Allow the skin temperature to return to normal before icing a second or third time. You can ice an acute injury several times a day for up to three days. As cold therapy reduces swelling and inflammation, it is a useful treatment for chronic pain or injuries caused by overuse in athletes. An athlete who has chronic knee pain that increases after running may want to ice the injured area after each run to reduce or prevent inflammation.

Heat Therapy

Heat Therapy is used to treat chronic injuries or injuries that have no inflammation or swelling.
Heat therapy helps those people suffering from sore, stiff, nagging muscle or joint pain. To increase the elasticity of joint connective tissues and to stimulate blood flow, heat therapy should be applied. Tight muscles or muscle spasms are eased by the application of heat but one should not apply heat after exercise. After a workout, ice is the better choice on a chronic injury.

As heat increases circulation and raises skin temperature, you should not apply heat to acute injuries or areas of inflammation. Safely apply heat to an injury 15 to 20 minutes at a time and use enough layers between your skin and the heating source to prevent burns.

Because some injuries can be serious, you should see your doctor if your injury does not improve (or gets worse) within 48 hours.

– adapted from a post by