Heat or Cold Therapy: Treating injuries properly

Do you know when to use heat or ice for injuries?

Heat, or ice? It is a question frequently asked after an injury occurs. What we do know is that some action needs to be taken afterwards.

"If we miss that window, then you've kind of missed your opportunity to get those benefits," says Sara Karpuk, physician assistant with Mercy Medical Center .

But, how do we tell the difference between the two uses? According to Karpuk, the answer is actually pretty simple.

"Cold therapy, or ice therapy is usually what people are using, we use for an acute injury, like if you have just fallen, you have just bumped your knee, you just sprained your ankle," says Karpuk. "Use it for those acute, just happened injuries, and when there is a lot of inflammation in the joint or the part of the body that has been injured."

You may have inflammation after exercising, and you can use ice to relieve that swelling.

When using ice, it is important to remember intervals of twenty minutes are more effective, with breaks in between. Also use a cloth or something between the skin and the ice to prevent the skin from more injury.

What about when it comes to chronic aches and pains?

"You would use heat for more of a chronic type injury," says Karpuk. "Chronic lower back pain, chronic tendenosis, and things like that."

While Karpuk says nothing significant will happen if you use the opposite treatment, she does say you will not get the exact benefit you desire.

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