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Hot & cold therapy can help the healing process during an injury, and it can also help reduce acute and chronic pain. But which one should you use? Here are some general rules for using hot verses cold.
With hot and cold therapy, there are certain times when one is better than the other, but there are always exceptions to the general rule, so make sure to check with your healthcare provider to see what will work best for you.
Heat therapy can help improve circulation and blood flow to an area by increasing the temperature. This can help relieve pain and increase muscle flexibility.
There are some precautions to heat therapy including conditions where you shouldn’t use it, so talk with your doctor to make sure it’s okay to use. Areas of significant bruising or open wounds should be avoided. Also, pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, vascular disease, DVTs, and MS should not use heat therapy due to higher risk of burns or complications due to heat application.
Cold therapy, also known as cryotherapy, works by reducing blood flow to an area. This can reduce inflammation and swelling that causes pain. It can temporarily reduce nerve activity, which can also relieve pain.
As with heat therapy, there are some precautions for cold therapy, especially those with sensation and circulation issues. This includes diabetes, which can result in nerve damage and lessened sensitivity.
Cold therapy can be used right after an injury, or it can be used after a workout or therapy to calm everything back down.
Cold therapy should be used for shorter periods compared to heat therapy. Ten to 15 minutes is ideal, but no more than 20 minutes.