Cold vs heat therapy, which one is best for your injury?
Cold therapy often called cryotherapy is the use of ice. Ice should be applied immediately after an injury has occurred. Ice will numb pain, reduce inflammation and bruising of the injured area due to vasoconstriction of the blood vessels. This is most effective when done within 24-48 hours of the injury.
We recommend wrapping a gel ice pack or bag of frozen vegetables with a tea towel before applying to the skin for 20 minutes then have a rest time of 40-60 minutes between applications to prevent frostbite. Use ice for up to2-3 days.
Heat therapy, referred to as thermotherapy, should be used on chronic injuries or injuries older than two-three days with no inflammation. It can be used to reduce pain, relax or soothe sore muscles and to increase range of motion. Applying heat to an inflamed area will dilate the blood vessels, increasing blood flow which in turn warms the underlying tissues reducing sore and tightened muscles. Thermotherapy improves circulation which can also help eliminate build-up of lactic acid waste, which often occurs after certain exercises. We recommend using a microwaveable wheat bag per the manufacturer’s instructions. A towel should be wrapped around the heat pack before applying to skin to prevent burns. Apply for 30 minutes then have a rest time of 60 minutes between applications up to 3 times per day.
Both ice and heat have are potentially harmful if used poorly. Do not apply heat to acute injuries. It will increase inflammation and can delay healing. Do not use heat or cold therapy over areas of skin with poor circulation, neuropathy, infection and if uncontrolled diabetes. Ice and heat when used correctly can help your pain, but if the pain is persisting it is best to speak to your podiatrist for advice and an examination.