Do you know when to use ice or heat for an injury?
Immediately following an injury and up to 48 hours thereafter, ice is the most appropriate and effective method to slow down blood flowing into an injured area and reducing the amount of blood pooling (swelling) into the area.
Depending on the type and location of the injury, several methods of ice therapy are optional: ice packs, chemical ice packs, cold whirlpool, cold immersion, or even a pack of frozen vegetables. Caution should be used to prevent direct contact between the skin and the form of chosen ice therapy. A soft cloth or paper towel should be placed between the skin and the ice to prevent a burn or allergic skin reaction.
Once the swelling has subsided, usually after 48 hours, then a combination of hot/cold therapy can be used.
Cold reduces the blood circulation to the injured area, while heat increases blood circulation. The two therapies work together to release the extra fluid from the area.
It is advised to end the hot/cold therapy with the cold therapy. Always use the combination of cold/hot/cold. When using the hot/cold therapy, place each pack on the injured area for 3-5 minutes, with a total time of 15-25 minutes.
Once the swelling has stabilized, the cold/hot/cold therapy can be applied twice daily until the swelling has subsided.
IMPORTANT: Heat therapy should never be used immediately after an injury. Heat increases the circulation to the area and will increase the blood flow to the area allowing the blood to freely circulate from any potential torn blood vessels into surrounding tissue. This can have a significant impact on the amount of swelling to a new injury.