A common question doctors and physical therapists often hear from patients is whether to use hot or cold therapy on an injury. Both are inexpensive and extremely effective modalities that can assist in healing and speeding up recovery.

Hot Treatments
Heat can come in the form of heated packs, warm compresses, hot baths, or other forms of hydrotherapy. These hot therapies warm up the skin and tissue, which stimulates blood flow in the affected area. Increased blood flow improves range of motion and flexibility by delivering oxygen and nutrients to the muscles and joints. By reducing tension, muscles can relax, which helps to relieve pain. Gentle stretching and other anaerobic exercises performed at home can also increase the treatment’s effectiveness. People beginning physical or occupational therapy sessions typically benefit most from hot treatments.

Cold Treatments
Ice packs, gel packs, cold wraps, cold baths, or other forms of hydrotherapy are all viable options for cold therapy. By cooling the skin and soft tissues, inflammation is reduced, slowing down blood flow and preventing swelling in the affected area. Following exercise or therapy, cold treatments are particularly effective. People who suffer from sprains, strains, fractures, or other injuries generally benefit most from cold therapy. Also, cold treatments are useful for reducing arthritis swelling.

While both treatments are beneficial in certain instances, it is imperative to mind the following safety tips before applying either therapy.

  1. Never place either treatment directly on the skin. Always use a thin towel or cloth between the hot or cold application and your skin to act as a barrier.
  2. Always treat the affected area for 15 minutes or less. Remove the application and let your skin normalize to room temperature (about 10 minutes) before re-applying the treatment. Never fall asleep or leave either hot or cold treatment on your skin for a prolonged period.
  3. Check the temperature before applying it to your skin. Hot treatments should not be scalding, and cold should be barely uncomfortable but not unbearable.
  4.  While undergoing treatment, check your skin every five minutes to ensure there is no excessive redness, swelling, burning, freezing, or overall inadequate sensations.

For more information about hot or cold therapy or to speak with someone who can advise whether either treatment would be right for you, call the specialists at MI Hand & Wrist today.

Michigan Hand & Wrist was founded in 2001 with the mission to provide the highest-quality care for patients seeking surgical or non-surgical hand or upper extremity relief. Our goal is to exhaust all non-operative measures before discussing or moving on to surgical interventions. We offer on-site physical therapy from therapists committed to improving your quality of life. Our individualized treatments are modern, progressive, and exceptional. Contact us today at www.michiganhandandwrist.com or call 248-596-0412.

Written by the digital marketing staff at Creative Programs & Systems: www.cpsmi.com.

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