Hot & Cold Therapy
Pendleton Chiropractor | Pendleton chiropractic care | | Hot/Cold Therapy
"Providing Progressive Treatment for Optimal Health"
Which one do I use and for how long?
This is the primary question and the answer can vary a bit, however here are a couple general rules.
0-72 Hours following a new injury stick with ice. Ice helps to reduce inflammation/swelling and provides analgesic (reduces pain) effect on the injured area. You want to stick with ice as long as the swelling is increasing. At this stage ice should be used for about 20 minute at a time as frequently as possible. Meaning you can ice the area for 20 minutes take at least 20 minutes off then begin icing again. Be careful because too much time on ice without enough time between treatments can result in the opposite physiological effect and you don't want that at this stage.
After 72 hours you can usually consider using heat. Heat works to increase blood flow and hence the agents necessary to speed the healing process. Again you should limit your use of heat to 20-30 minutes per session. Moist heat is better than dry heat. Moist heat tends to penetrate more deeply and does not take moisture out of the skin and muscles the way dry heat does. In addition moist heat is more beneficial for chronic pain such as arthritis.
The final option, and the one I usually recommend to patients, is to alternate the two. Again this is usually best after the initial 48-72 hours of using ice only. Which one your starting and ending with may have something to do with what you will be doing following therapy.
For instance if your doing therapy prior to more movement or exercise you may start and end with heat. On the other hand if its night and your doing some therapy before bed you may start and end with ice. So you would spend 20 minutes heat/ 10 minutes ice / 20 minutes heat or vice versa. You could repeat this cycle as often as needed since you are alternating. The alternating methods work as a physiological pump to help both reduce the swelling that has accumulated and bring necessary nutrients and blood cells to the site for healing.
It is important to note that there are certain conditions that you should not use ice and/or heat on. For instance rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud's syndrome, paralysis, or diseases of reduced sensation such as diabetes or vascular disease. If in doubt ask your chiropractor or other primary care physician.