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A frequent question I get asked is shall I use a hot or cold compress? Firstly, let’s understand what each therapy does?

Heat Therapy:

  • Improves circulation
  • Allows expansion of the vessels and tissues
  • Increases temperature
  • Soothe and relax muscle discomfort

You can use either dry heat (heat pad) or moist heat (hot baths, steam), both should aim or a ‘warm’ temperature not hot! A common mistake people make, which leads to burns! You can use local treatment for targeting one muscle, or a whole area targeting whole body stiffness.

When you should not use heat?

  • If you have bruising
  • Inflamed joints/Area
  • Open wounds

Certain pre-existing conditions that may causing higher risk of burns or complications

  • Diabetes
  • Dermatitis
  • Vascular disease
  • Deep vein thrombosis0
  • Multiple sclerosis

Cold therapy:

  • Reducing blood flow
  • Contraction of blood vessels and tissues
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Relieve pain
  • Temporarily reduce nerve activity

You can use for local areas: ice packs, sprays, or whole body affect: ice baths, ice massage. During the first 72 hours of initial injury, can use ice three times a day for 10-15 minutes.

When should you not use ice?

  • Tight and stiff muscles
  • Feeling unwell (shivering cold)

In conclusion ice and heat have different benefits. Most patients come to us at an acute inflammatory state, therefore we advise using ice. In this circumstance ice is better than heat as it will help decrease the inflammation. The inflammatory process is a healthy, normal and natural process that takes place. As a result, we are not trying to completely stop it, just settle the swelling to reduce pain.

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