Should you put hot or cold on an injury? This is a question that medical professionals have grappled with for centuries. Most have come to the conclusion that you should use cold for a fresh injury and use heat to relieve the muscle pain due to the injury. Basically, you should never put hot on an injury if there is an inflammation – this will only make the inflammation a lot worse. We expand on these points in this article, so read on for a more detailed analysis.
When Should You Put Cold on an Injury?
Cold is applied to an injury in the form of ice packs. Ice packs are very effective at treating acute injuries as they reduce the inflammation of the damaged tissues considerably. Following an injury, the tissues are likely to be swollen, red and painful. Inflammation of tissues is the body’s way of dealing with an acute injury. Putting cold on an acute injury would bring down the pain due to the inflammation considerably.
When you put cold on an injury, it reduces the bleeding, swelling and the inflammation. It brings down the severity of the muscle pain and reduces the spasms due to the injury. Applying cold numbs the area most affected by the injury and lowers the pain due to the swelling. It prevents the gathering of the excess tissue fluid and hence reduces the stiffness of the affected region.
However, there are times when you should not put cold on an injury. You shouldn’t place ice packs on the injury when you are already shivering from the cold. You shouldn’t place the ice packs in on the neck or the back as they would result in severe muscle spasms which would aggravate the neck pain or back pain.
Cold should not be applied to an acute injury if there is an open wound, burns or blisters on the skin, a nerve has been damaged or when the entire affected area feels numb.
When Should You Put Hot on an Injury?
Let’s begin with when you should NOT put hot on an injury. You should avoid applying heat to an injury if there is an inflammation, as that would make the inflammation even worse and the pain would become unbearable. Never apply heat to an injury when you’re running a high fever and your body temperature is high.
You should not put heat on an injury when the room temperature is already very high and you are sweating. Applying heat to an injury during a hot day in the summer is never a bright idea. Neither is applying heat to the injury after you’ve just exerted yourself physically.
So when should you put hot on an injury? To understand this, it is important to know what heat does. Application of heat helps to alleviate the severity of the muscle pain and stress caused due to an injury.
It calms the nerves and makes the muscle pain easier to tolerate. That’s why heat is usually applied to those suffering from back pain, shoulder ache and neck pain. This works best during the winter, or when it’s cold outside.
Applying heat causes the blood vessels to dilate and stimulates the flow of blood to the affected region. It helps to reduce the muscle stiffness and, soothes the nerves and reduces muscle pain considerably.
Heat should be applied using heat pads, heat lamps or hot water bottles. The best time to apply it is when the muscle pain due to the acute injury is still fresh, not more than two days old. Care should be taken not to apply too much heat as the last thing you want are skin burns, that will make the pain worse and even unbearable.
Hope this article decides the debate on whether you should put hot or cold for an injury. The rule of thumb be followed is, put cold for an injury, and hot for the muscle pain due to the injury.