Is It Better to Use Heat or Ice to Treat Injuries?
Experiencing an injury is never a pleasant experience, but some tips and tricks can help to speed up the healing process and minimize your symptoms. Many people are familiar with applying heat or ice to an injury, but you might not know precisely when you should use ice and when you should use heat. Let’s take a look at whether heat or cold is better for treating injuries and how you should apply them for maximum benefits.
Benefits of Heat
Heat functions as a vasodilator, meaning it causes blood vessels to expand. This also means that circulation is increased in the area where you are applying the heat. Heat therapy can be very beneficial for relieving cramps, aches, spasms and pain. Heat also has the ability to draw blood and nutrients to the area of the body that is receiving the heat, which can help promote faster healing. It’s important to be careful when you're applying heat to an injury because it has the potential to make inflammation worse.
Benefits of Ice
Using cryotherapy can be very helpful thanks to the vasoconstriction that it causes. When you narrow the blood vessels in the area of an injury, it will reduce the development of inflammation in that area. Pain signals will also be slowed down. When using ice, the recommendation is to apply it for 15 minutes every two to three hours for the first 72 hours following an injury to slow inflammation.
Alternating Heat and Ice
Heat and ice both come with their own set of benefits. Because of this, it is often helpful to alternate these two therapies to get the best results. The general rule of thumb with heat and ice application is that you apply one for about 20 minutes, then let your body rest for 20 minutes. After that break, you can apply the other form of treatment for 20 minutes. This method promotes general inflammation reduction. It also stimulates circulation and can loosen up tight muscles.
What to Watch Out For
If you have been advised by a doctor to use hot therapy, cold therapy or alternating therapies, be sure to watch out for adverse reactions. For example, if you experience an increase in pain, cramping or muscle spasms, then you should immediately stop that form of therapy and consult with a doctor. Be sure to keep track of the time that you are applying heat or cold. You don’t want to leave either one on for too long.
Both heat and ice have their places when it comes to treating an injury. The type of injury that you have can help you determine the course of action that you should take. If you have a minor injury, you may be able to find relief on your own. It’s always a good idea to get a proper diagnosis from a medical professional when you hurt yourself. This will ensure that you’re taking the appropriate action toward healing your body.
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