When to self-apply Heat Packs vs Cold Packs
Many people discover happiness through physical activity. For these individuals, an active lifestyle touches every aspect of what it means to be human. From relationships to leisure to work, physical activity elevates life.
Consequently, injury can feel devastating. Even simple injuries, like sprains and strains, induce bouts of boredom and even depression. Appropriate use of thermal modalities (ice or heat) is a simple and effective first treatment choice. But which to choose, Heat Packs vs Cold Packs?
When to Use Cold Packs
Applying cold immediately after an injury is nearly always the first step towards pain reduction and healing. Cold is often coupled with rest, compression, and elevation. Thus the oft-quoted acronym R.I.C.E. Used properly, application of cold can drastically reduce swelling, inflammation, healing times and tissue damage. Much of the benefit we get from ice is attributable to the body’s tending toward a temperature of homeostatic 98.5 degrees F. In order to restore tissue temperatures when the cold is removed the body sends an increased cellular response which results in increased blood flow in the area following the application of a cold pack.
As a bonus, cold packs are cheap, easy to store, and simple to transport. From student-athletes to retirees playing golf or tennis, cold packs have proven their worth.
When to Use Heat Packs
We should rarely use a heat pack immediately after an injury occurs.
Waiting 48 – 72 hours after an injury to apply heat is a good general rule. Heat causes blood vessels to open, filling the damaged area with blood. This encourages swelling to increase, which is a good thing to an extent. Often the body’s response of swelling results in pain. If the pain is too great from swelling then movement and activity are affected. Adding heat may, in these situations, make things even worse in the form of more pain and longer recovery times.
The best outcome from heat packs is to relieve stiffness and pain from immobility. Muscular abnormalities, such as cramping and spasms, respond favorably to heat.
When used properly, heat and cold packs are excellent tools to restore quality to lives turned upside down by unexpected injury. So use these simple guidelines to speed up your relief and recovery. For more detailed help please call to schedule an appointment.