Post by our Physical Therapist Mai Vu
Choosing between heat or cold therapy depends on the type of injury.
- Cold Therapy– Ice should be applied for the first 3 days following any type of acute injury such as a sprain, post surgery, or with any type of swelling. Mild cooling works to reduce inflammation by constricting blood vessels around the area of injury. A cold pack also works to decrease pain, reduce muscle spasms and to facilitate movement. The use of cold should be avoided when there is hypersensitivity or intolerance to cold and with Raynaud’s Disease.
- Heat Therapy– Heat should be used for chronic pain, muscle soreness and stiffness. Applying heat opens up the blood vessels allowing blood to flow freely to the affected area. This increased circulation delivers more oxygen and nutrients to sore, fatigued and injured muscles which accelerates the healing process. Heat should be avoided with open wounds, acute inflammation, during a flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis, over a blood clot, malignant tissue or an area of decreased sensation.
Always consult with your physician when there is uncertainty whether to use heat or cold especially with specific medical conditions.