The question often
comes up as to when it is best to use cold or hot treatment in injuries.
Perhaps this can help. When to use ice or heat depends on how long
ago the injury occurred.
After you strain a
ligament or muscle, it is generally best to use cold (ice or a cold
pack) immediately and then for the next day and 1/2. It's usually wise
not to use heat, such as a heating pad, until swelling and bruising has
Cold is usually used
first because it reduces swelling and inflammation.
Use Ice for the first 48 hours after an injury. Apply for
20 minutes, remove for 20 minutes, then repeat. Do
not apply directly to the skin -- put a thin towel over
the skin for protection, or freeze a cup full of water,
tear off the top rim and move the ice over the injury. This
helps control bleeding by constricting blood vessels. Cold acts as a
local anesthetic and so relieves pain. Usually the bruising associated
with acute inflammation stops within 1 to 3 days. To relieve
muscle spasms, minor sprains and strains, it's usually best to
apply cold for 20 minutes intervals at a time every 4 to 6 hours for the first
day and a half. Commercial cold packs may be safer than using ice.
Prolonged exposure to cold, especially ice, can result in frostbite to
tissues. Later in the process, you may relieve pain by applying heat,
rather than cold, to your injury.
heat 20 minutes at a time at least 24 hours after a minor
injury or 48 hours after a more serious one. Place a heat
pack directly on the injured area -- do not add pressure.
Do not apply to broken skin.
Apply cold to acute injuries,
such as a newly sprained ankle or a pulled muscle.
improves circulation. It's best for chronic pain, such
as from tight muscles or a sore back.
Heat and Cold if you have soft tissue damage and/or
stretched ligaments, such as an ankle sprain. Heat aids in
restoring range of motion. Apply cold for 20 minutes per
hour as desired for the first 24 hours. The next day,
apply warmth for 20 minutes per hour as desired.
Don't apply cold for more that 24 to 36 hours or warmth for more than 72 hours, see a doctor.