One of the most frequent questions a physiotherapist is asked is, “I’ve injured myself. Should I use ice or heat?” Either of these options if used correctly can help to control and heal injuries.

Cold Therapy: How and When Should I Use It?

Commonly used cooling agents are cold packs, ice baths, ice cubes, and cold cloths. When these items are applied to the skin, blood vessels narrow and blood flow decreases, causing swelling and inflammations to reduce. It is important to put a damp cloth between the cooling agent and your skin to prevent any skin irritation. Cold is usually applied to an injury within the first 24-48 hours or if inflammation persists. PRICE, standing for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation, is a common guideline you can use. It can be used for 10-15 minutes at a time every hour throughout the day.

Heat Therapy: How and When Should I Use It?

Commonly used dry heat products in the home are electric pads, hot water bottles and gel packs. Damp clay packs, used in hospitals and physiotherapy are considered moist heat. Heat dilates the blood vessels that increase blood flow bringing nutrients and oxygen to the affected area. This aids in the removal of cell waste and promotes healing. Be sure to protect your skin with a cloth between it and the heat source. Heat is most often used in the chronic phase of an injury. It is effective prior to exercise to decrease muscle tension and increase flexibility and range of motion. It should be applied for 15-20 minutes then removed for about an hour.

If in doubt about whether to use cold or heat, generally cold is a safer option. If you have any other questions or concerns regarding whether to use hot or cold therapy, contact a physiotherapist. Call us at Brooksbank 604.973.0242 or Deep Cove 604.929.8444= to schedule an appointment and help your injury heal faster. 

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