When treating an injury such as a pulled muscle or sprained ankle, hot or cold therapy is often utilized. When using this type of therapy on an injury, many people are often unsure on which type of therapy they should use. The following outlines when to use either hot or cold therapy.
One should apply heat on an injured area when there is no inflammation. Heat therapy is typically used for such conditions as sore and stiff muscles as well as joint pain. The heat relaxes muscles and improves blood circulation. Experts believe the heat releases endorphins which inhibits pain signals to the brain. The effect of the heat causes the blood vessels to expand allowing the blood which carries oxygen and nutrients to circulate and reach the injured area. The boost in circulation allows excess fluid and waste to be carried away from the area allowing for healing to take place.
Heat therapy is often used before exercise or participating in sports so the muscles will be relaxed and more flexible. Heat is usually applied for about 20 minutes. A hot wet towel, hot pack, and heating pad are normally used in heat therapy. Heat therapy is popular for use on back injuries. It should not be used on sprained ankles and inflamed joints and muscles. The suitable temperature for heat therapy is about 104 to 113 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cold therapy is used for reducing pain, inflammation, and slowing metabolic action. The cold dulls nerve activity thereby inhibiting pain. For inflammation, cold constricts blood vessels which stop fluid from traveling to the injury where swelling occurs and permits fluid drainage. This allows for a reduction in swelling. Cold reduces muscle spasms and tightens muscles so they cannot stretch and extend which allows for healing.
Cold therapy is beneficial for immediate injuries as it reduces both pain and swelling. It is beneficial for treating lower back pain. Ice wrapped in a towel and cold packs are often used for about 10 minutes at a time. Some people will use a bag of ice or frozen vegetables such as peas. Cold therapy is also beneficial for chronic pain injuries. It should not be used before exercise because it tightens muscles making them less flexible.
When one sustains an injury due to such activities as heavy lifting, exercise, sports, or another activity that involves an intensive use of the muscles and ligaments, hot and cold therapy is an effective treatment for the injury. These injuries are quite common. The type of treatment you use will depend on the type of injury you receive. It is important to remember that an injury can be serious so it is vital that you see a doctor if the injury gets worse.
Many experts recommend seeing a doctor if the injury does not improve within 48 hours. Whether you use hot or cold therapy, it is essential to use the proper temperature and length of time for the most effective results.
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