Ice or heat: What is the right treatment for injuries?

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Both ice packs and heat pads are commonly used treatments when it comes to injuries. Deciding whether to use ice or heat on an injury can put some individuals in a standstill. Do not forget that you should also consider how long the treatments are provided.

Ice treatment

Ice or heat treatment
Ice is applied for recent injuries.

For acute injuries, ice treatment is commonly used. Individuals who suffered from a recent injury such as those within the last 48 hours usually suffer from swelling. This is the best time to utilize ice treatment. By using ice packs or cold packs, the swelling can be minimized at the site of the injury.

Ice packs are often used after injuries such as ankle sprains. The early application of ice for the initial 48 hours can help minimize the swelling. The swelling should be minimized at the injury site in order to control the pain. Take note that ice treatments can also be used for chronic conditions such as overuse injuries among athletes. If this is the case, apply ice at the injury after the activity to control the inflammation. Always remember not to apply ice to a chronic injury before any activity.

A cold treatment should be applied 24-48 hours after the injury was sustained. It is suitable for bumps, strains, bruises and sprains. The ice pack should be applied to the affected area for only 20 minutes at a time and then wait for another 10 minutes before applying it again.

Heat treatment

For chronic conditions, the heat treatments are the best choice in order to help relax and loosen the tissues as well as to stimulate the flow of blood to the affected area. Chronic conditions in which heat treatments can be used include overuse injuries.

It is best to avoid using heat treatments right after an activity or after an acute injury. Understandably, heating the tissues can be accomplished by utilizing a heating pad or simply a hot towel. When it comes to heat treatments, you have to be cautious and use only enough heat for a short time in order to prevent burns. Do not use heating pads as well as warm towels for an extended period or when sleeping.

Tips when using heat treatments

  • Avoid applying the heat longer than 20 minutes unless recommended by your doctor or physical therapist.
  • Do not utilize heat treatment if there is swelling. Cold should be used first and then followed by heat.
  • Avoid using heat treatments on individuals who have poor circulation or diabetes.
  • Avoid lying down on a heating pad since you might fall asleep and end up burning your skin.
  • Do not use heat treatment if you have stitches or open wounds.

In case you are in doubt whether to use cold or heat treatment for injuries, it is best to enroll in a first aid course so that you can learn the basics and capable of delivering the appropriate measures when needed.

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