When to Ice or Heat an Injury

"When should I use hot or cold for an injury?" is one of the most common questions I get from patients. Before we answer it, let’s first review the effects of hot and cold.

Effect of Heat
When heat is applied to a superficial area, it increases the blood flow to that region. An increase in blood flow means more nutrient is brought to the area, and thus, healing is promoted. Heat, in general, reduces the viscosity of body fluid and so improves the overall flexibility of the soft tissue.

Effect of Cold
Use of cold, on the contrary, reduces the tissue metabolic activity. Hence, it greatly reduces the swelling produced by injury. In addition, it numbs the nerve endings, and so decreases pain.



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