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Ice or Heat

Which Treatment Should be Used for Injury Treatment?

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Updated April 01, 2014

ice for injury treatment

Ice packs are a common way to treat inflammation.

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Ice packs and heat pads are among the most commonly used treatments in orthopedics. So which one is the right one to use for your injury, ice or heat? And how long should the ice or heat treatments last? Read on for information about treatment of injuries with ice packs and heating pads.

Ice Treatment

Ice treatment is most commonly used for acute injuries. If you have a recent injury (within the last 48 hours) where swelling is a problem, you should be using ice treatment. Ice packs can help minimize swelling around the injury.

Ice packs are often used after injuries such as an ankle sprain have occurred. Applying an ice pack early and often for the first 48 hours will help minimize swelling. Decreasing swelling around an injury will help to control the pain.

Ice treatments may also be used for chronic conditions, such as overuse injuries in athletes. In this case, ice the injured area after activity to help control inflammation. Never ice a chronic injury before activity.

Heat Treatment

Heat treatments should be used for chronic conditions to help relax and loosen tissues, and to stimulate blood flow to the area. Use heat treatments for chronic conditions, such as overuse injuries, before participating in activities.

Do not use heat treatments after activity, and do not use heat after an acute injury. Heating tissues can be accomplished using a heating pad, or even a hot, wet towel. When using heat treatments, be very careful to use a moderate heat for a limited time to avoid burns. Never leave heating pads or towels on for extended periods of time, or while sleeping.

Ice or Heat?

Ice or Heat?
  Ice Heat
When To Use Use ice after an acute injury, such as an ankle sprain, or after activities that irritate a chronic injury, such as shin splints. Use heat before activities that irritate chronic injuries such as muscle strains. Heat can help loosen tissues and relax injured areas.
How To Do It Read through the information on how to ice an injury. There are several ways to ice an injury. Heating pads or hot wet towels are both excellent methods. Place a washcloth under hot tap water and then apply to the injured area.
For How Long Apply ice treatments for no longer than 20 minutes at a time. Too much ice can do harm, even cause frostbite; more ice application does not mean more relief. It is not necessary to apply a heat treatment for more than about 20 minutes at a time. Never apply heat while sleeping.
Related Video
How to Ice a Running Injury
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