Monthly Archives: July 2016

Hot or Cold?

icing a knee

The application of hot or cold onto an injury is vital to reduce inflammatory processes and promote healing. But when exactly should you use one over the other? Here's a summary of what to do:

Use ice when:

  • You injury a muscle or joint and there is swelling present
  • Ice is especially helpful when a bleed is suspected such as a torn ligament or muscle or direct cork (haematoma)
  • Use ice only when the injury is less than 2 days old
  • Use a damp towel between your skin and the ice pack to prevent an ice burn 
  • Apply the ice for no more than 10 minutes and apply every few hours for best results
  • Keep the injured area moving lightly
  • Do not apply ice if there is a spine injury-heat usually is better unless there has been blunt force to the back and bleeding is suspected
  • Fractures generally do not tolerate ice so if the injured area is hurting alot when ice is applied and the injury is over a bony area, suspect that a fracture may have occured
  • In between times of ice, use a light compression bandage to the area to reduce any bleeding, and lightly move the area within the limits of your pain

Use heat when:

  • The time since injury has passed 2 days
  • The injury involves the spine and there is significant muscle spasm
  • You want to increase blood flow and healing to the injured area

In addition to the principles of hot and cold, you should observe the remaining injury guidelines including:

  • R-Rest
  • I-Ice (for the first 2 days)
  • C-Compression bandage but not not rigid taping as this traps the blood and swelling into the area
  • E-Elevation
  • R-Referral to your health professional

And do no HARM-

  • Heat- (for the first 2 days after an injury)
  • Alcohol- as this increases blood flow to the injured area
  • Running-as this may risk re-injuring the area
  • Massage-as this can lead to re-bleeding if performed too firmly within 2 days of the injury 

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