Cold vs. Hot: Which Wins and When?

We’ve all heard the advice: “put ice on it” or “give it some heat,” but you might not be sure when to apply cold or heat. Both hot and cold therapies have advantages for pain relief depending on the type of injury.

For the best one to try, follow these suggestions:

Use cold for acute pain and new injuries that are swollen and inflamed. This includes recent tissue damage and sprains. Ice should be applied after exercise to the area of injury using a towel to protect the skin.

If you have a chronic injury, apply ice and compression after a workout. Use cold gel packs, such as Chattanooga, and wraps like Durasoft to help constrict blood flow and reduce pain.

Need both cold and compression at the same time? Try Aircast CryoCuff cold therapy.

Heat is for chronic pain, muscle spasms, joint pain or an injury more than 24 to 48 hours old. Heat stimulates blood flow and soothes overworked muscles. Heat should only be used before exercising. To apply heat, use a heating pad, a hot wet towel or warm shower. Chattanooga has a range of quality heat products to ease chronic pain.

Treat It Right:

  • Apply ice or heat for no longer than 10-20 minutes at a time.
  • A combination of heat and cold can be used after an injury to keep swelling down and increase circulation.
  • For muscle tears or strains, start with ice and move on to heat when the inflammation has reduced.
  • Listen to your body. Heat or cold should not worsen the pain or injury.

Talk to your doctor if you have further questions about hot or cold therapy.

Sources:
http://www.prevention.com/fitness/fitness-tips/ice-or-heat-injury
http://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-pain/treating-pain-with-heat-and-cold#2
http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=4483
http://orthopedics.about.com/cs/sportsmedicine/a/iceorheat.htm