Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Heat or Cold Therapy?

Every day I have an evaluation and one of the questions that always comes up is, “Should I use heat or cold for my pain/injury?”  Since it is such a common question, I thought I would address it here.

Heat: The Good and Bad
Superficial heat can help improve flexibility to your tendons and ligaments, reduce muscle spasms. It can also alleviate pain and elevate blood flow.  “Increased blood flow occurs in the heated parts of the body because heat tends to relax the walls of blood vessels.  That is one reason why sports doctors recommend you steer clear of the practice of heating already inflamed joints.”

Cold: The Good and Bad
Cold therapy can also reduce muscle spasms but is most noted for pain relief and reducing swelling.  The cold actually “deadens” the nerve-cell activity.  Some issues with the pain relieving effects are that people get so much pain relief that they often return to work too soon.   Studies have shown that cold therapy, when combined with compression dramatically decreased swelling.  This is because the cold constricts the walls of the blood vessels and compression restricts the amount of blood that can reach that part of the body.  Studies show that cold produces large decreases in edema or swelling and better reduction in discomfort, compared to heating.

My first option is always ice but it is important to look at the pros and cons of each modality.  If you are still confused, contact your local physical therapist for a better evaluation of your specific issue.

Ref: http://physical-therapy.advanceweb.com/SharedResources/Downloads/2013/012813/PT_HotCold.pdf
Img: https://www.mountainside-medical.com/product_images/uploaded_images/HotCold_01.jpg

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