Age-old wisdom says that ice or heat is good to use for different kinds of injuries – from bruises to swelling. But is ice the best treatment for some of the most common ailments? Or should you go with heat instead?
Usually, ice is best for acute pain and inflammation or swelling, while heat works best for muscle stiffness or pain. The thing is that sometimes, the best approach will be a combination of both.
How Does Cold Therapy Work?
So exactly what does ice do for swelling? The cold reduces blood flow to the area you are cooling down. This means ice for swelling and bruising can help reduce inflammation which causes pain, especially when that inflammation may push down on a joint or tendon or even pinch a nerve. The cold also reduces nerve activity which will relieve and ease pain. So, if you have a sprain, swelling, redness, or acute pain after exercising intensely, you can apply cold therapy. Cold therapy can come in a variety of ways: ice packs, cold baths, or cooling sprays being the typical ones.
Is ice good for bruises? A bruise happens when an injury causes the small blood vessels beneath your skin break, causing the blood to leak with nowhere to go. It stays there until the body absorbs it during the healing process. Applying ice to a bruise makes the blood in that area flow slower and may reduce the amount of blood that leaks out of the vessels into the surrounding tissue.
If after applying cold therapy to an injury and the swelling doesn’t go down in approximately two days, you should call your doctor.
When Should I Stay Away from the Cold?
If your muscles and joints are stiff, you may want to avoid cold and apply heat instead. If there is poor circulation, then cold is probably not your best bet. Overdoing the cold therapy, especially if the cold is applied directly to the skin, could result in tissue or even nerve damage. If you have diabetes, you may want to stay away from the cold as well.
How Does Heat Work?
Heat improves the blood flow to the application area. The increased blood flow means increased oxygen and all the building blocks the body needs to repair tissue. As a bonus, heat also soothes and relaxes muscles. The type of injuries to apply heat to would include pain or soreness of the muscles, stiff joints, old injuries, and arthritis.
Visit the UrgentMED Network to Treat Your Injuries
Suffering from an injury? The best thing is to visit a medical professional. The UrgentMed Network is the largest urgent care network in Southern California. With 18 convenient walk-in locations, patients can get in the same day, no appointment necessary. Get medications on-site, and go home in a few hours feeling better. Visit the closest location to you today.