Have you ever wondered whether you should be putting heat or ice on an injury? If so, you aren’t alone. It is one of the most common questions I am asked at the practice. You may also be wondering for how long you should apply the heat or cold and how regularly. Well, here are some answers for you!
Knowing what the effect of heat or cold is will help you decide when to use it. Heat acts to open up blood vessels and so increase blood flow to the area. It also improves collagen extensibility (makes it easier to stretch). This is great for stiff and painful joints and muscles that are in spasm or are tight, for example with lower back pain or neck pain.
Heat should be avoided on areas that are inflamed or swollen, on open wounds or around stitches and any areas that generally “feel hot”. This is where cold comes in!
Cold will decrease blood flow to the affected area and this helps with inflammation and swelling. It also has an analgesic affect, effectively reducing pain. Ice is great for acute sports injuries, painful, “hot” joints and acute muscle tears. If its hot – ice it.
Applying heat or cold for around 20minutes is a good rule of thumb. Avoid applying it directly to the skin – pop a tea towel or something similar in between, and try and use something that retains the heat or the cold – whilst a bag of peas is regularly suggested, it looses its cold very quickly so its worth investing in a good heat or cold pack.
Heat and cold can be a great treatment alternative, its safe, cheap and effective and can decrease reliance on medication. If you have any questions on how it can help you, please don’t hesitate to contact us at the clinic.