Should you use heat or ice to treat an injury?

Ice packs and heat pads are among the most commonly used treatments in orthopedics. So which one is the right one to use for your injury, ice or heat? And how long should the ice or heat treatments last?

Ice Treatment

Ice treatment is most commonly used for acute injuries. If you have a recent injury (within the last 48 hours) where swelling is a problem, you should be using ice treatment. Ice packs can help minimize swelling around the injury.

Ice packs are often used after injuries such as an ankle sprain. Applying an ice pack early and often for the first 48 hours will help minimise swelling. Decreasing swelling around an injury will help to control the pain.

Ice treatments may also be used for chronic conditions, such as overuse injuries in athletes. In this case, ice the injured area after activity to help control inflammation. Never ice a chronic injury before activity.

Heat Treatment

Heat treatments should be used for conditions to help relax and reduce muscle spasm and to stimulate blood flow to the area. They should not be used after activity and should not be used following an acute injury.

Heating tissues can be accomplished using a heating pad or even a hot, wet towel. When using heat treatments be very careful to use a moderate heat for a limited time to avoid burns. Never leave heating pads or towels on for extended periods of time or whilst sleeping.

If in any doubt or need further advice then speak to one of our experts and book an appointment.

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