Do you know when to use cold or hot compress for your pain?

November 20, 2020

Ice or heat? Which is better? Whether to apply a hot or cold compress to treat injury depends on the type of injury that caused pain. Thus, applying heat on the damage may not always be the best since cold compress may be needed instead. So, you ask, "When should I use heat and when to use cold on an injury?" As mentioned earlier, the question can be best answered by knowing the type of injury if it is chronic or acute. The timing of applying the compress should be considered as well. If you are unsure about the kind of damage, you can ask your chiropractor for advice. Going for chiropractic care will help ease the pain and treat the injury, but your chiropractor can also advise when to apply ice or heat as an immediate remedy. 

What type of injury should I apply ice or heat? 

Cold compress is best recommended for acute injuries, which is a type of injury that usually occurs within 48 hours. Acute injuries result from a sudden trauma like collision or fall, which would make your skin red and tender. Pain, swelling, and feeling of warmth on the injured skin may also happen. But unlike acute injuries, chronic injuries develop slowly due to overused muscles or improper healing of a previous injury. The pain from a chronic injury can also be tolerated, or that it can be not bothersome at all, which is quite unlike the pain from an acute injury. However, the pain can be in the form of soreness, or dull pain that can cause a little inconvenience. Now that you know the two types of injuries, which one should you

use ice or heat?

Ice or cold compress is usually recommended for acute injuries to control and reduce swelling and pain. Applying a cold compress is most effective if used within 48 hours after the onset of the injury. However, heat is not recommended for acute injury since it raises skin temperature and increases circulation as well. It was mentioned above that acute injury may cause redness, tenderness, swelling, warmth, and pain, aggravating if you apply heat. 

Heat or hot compress is best for chronic injuries like sore muscles and joint pain. However, it is to note that although hot compress is best for chronic pain, the time of applying heat is essential. Since chronic injuries mostly happen to athletes, it is then recommended that hot compresses should be applied before exercises or trainings. The application of heat can increase the injured part's flexibility, and it can also stimulate blood flow to the injured area. But should you apply heat after an exercise? The answer is no. Cold compress is best for chronic injury after exercise since it discourages the formation of swelling and pain. 

General Rule When To Apply Ice or Heat

You may ask, “How do I apply hot or cold compress on my injury?” Here is a general guide as to when applying ice or heat: 

When to use ice? Use it after an acute injury like an ankle sprain or shin splints. Use an ice bag or wrap the ice cubes in a towel and leave it on the injured area for about 20 minutes. If you feel numbness on the cold compressed skin, don't worry. It is expected.  If you will reapply the cold compress, wait for the numbing to disappear before reapplying. 

When to use heat? Use it for chronic injuries, specifically before an activity like sports or exercise. A hot compress can help relaxes and loosens tissues of the injured area. Apply the heat using a heating pad or a hot towel for about 20 minutes. It is also best not to apply a hot compress while sleeping

to avoid getting your skin burned.

If your skin looks purplish-ted in color, or dark red, spotty red and white, if you have hives, swelling, and blisters, you probably have skin damage due to extreme heat or cold. Remember to protect your skin with a thin towel before applying the heating pad or the cold compress. As mentioned numerous times, always leave the heat or ice for up to 20 minutes at a time only. Wait for the skin to go back to normal before going for another reapplication.

What are the Benefits of Hot and Cold Compress? 

The heat helps boost blood and nutrients flow to an area where hot compress was applied.  It is recommended to apply a hot compress in the morning to help warm up muscles and ease stiffness, which is ideal for treating ease pain from sprain or strain. However, there are injuries that you can treat, either hot or cold. Chiropractors can treat conditions like osteoarthritis, back pain, neck pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia can be treated with heat or cold. Using heat or cold will you relieve the following symptoms: muscle aches, pains, and spasms, lower and upper back pain, swollen, tender, and stiff joints and neck, finger and wrist pain, and knee pain. 

You can use an electric heating pad or a gel pack that you can freeze or microwave. In case you don't have a heating pad, gel pack, or an ice bag, you can use a hot towel and frozen vegetables or ice cubes wrapped in a towel. You can improvise on what to use for your hot or cold compress. Just make sure to wrap it in a thin towel to help protect your skin from getting injured from too much heat or cold. The application can also last for up to 20 minutes several times a day, but make sure to wait for intervals before the reapplication or let your skin go back to normal first. 

In case the pain does not go away, visit your chiropractor for good chiropractic care. The hot and cold compress are remedies that you can do on your own, but addressing the cause of the pain and making sure that it heals well and correctly should be done by a trained chiropractor like Dr. Debole. 

Other Ways to Apply Hot or Cold Compress

woman holding cold pack on wrist

Using an electric heating pad or an ice bag is not the only ways to apply heat and cold on the injured part. You go for hydrotherapy or a nice warm bath to soothe muscle tension. A few minutes under the hot shower or a good soak in a hot tub will be good for blood circulation and relaxation. However, those who have heart problems and over 70 years old should consult your doctor first since a hot bath may not be right. So, instead of applying a hot compress before an exercise, you can also take a nice warm bath to calm the burning pain and reduce swelling and inflammation. 

You can also use warm clothes to help ease morning stiffness and pain. A heated paraffin wax therapy is also an excellent way to apply heat, especially on feet, hands, and elbows. The paraffin wax can be easily bought at your corner beauty store or drugstore.

Do You Still Need to Visit a Chiropractor? 

Of course, you must visit your trusted chiropractor for good chiropractic treatment. Applying heat or ice to ease pain from chronic and acute injuries is just immediate treatment you can do independently. But sound manipulation and chiropractic treatment are important to prevent further injuries. A chronic injury, for example, can be recurring or that it can happen often. The pain from a chronic injury may not be as painful or excruciating as the pain from an acute injury. Yet, it still needs to be treated by an experienced chiropractor like Dr. Debole. 

Besides getting good advice on correctly applying heat and ice, your chiropractor can also provide you valuable tips on proper stretching and exercise to help prevent chronic injury. Your chiropractor can again do manipulation to treat pain from acute injury. A good chiropractor can also offer other services for a holistic treatment like nutrition counseling and a healthy lifestyle. Hence, your body is not just treatment for proper alignment, but your overall well-being is also considered.  

How to look for a Good Chiropractor?  

Chiropractors receive hundreds of hours of training. They also need to get proper certifications and licenses to perform chiropractic care. Hence, it will enable them to do the delicate spine and neck manipulation. Some chiropractors are even trained for pre-natal or pregnancy chiropractic treatment. Unlike the usual back cracking and manipulation, chiropractors practicing pre-natal chiropractic are trained and well-experienced to care for the mother and the unborn child. So, going back to the question on how to look for a good chiropractor, visit a trusted and licensed chiropractor like Dr. Debole for your chiropractic needs.

debole chiropractic family care and sports rehab logo
Location: 6280 Route 96 Victor, NY 14564 US
Contact: (585) 433-5680
Clinic Details
DeBole Chiropractic
6280 NY-96 Suite E, Victor, NY 14564
(585) 433-5680
Clinic Hours
Monday8:00am - 11:30am3:30-5:30pm
TuesdayClosed2:00pm - 6:00pm
Wednesday8:00am - 11:30amClosed
Thursday11:00am - 1:00pm2:00pm - 6:00pm
Friday8:00am - 11:00am2:00pm - 6:00pm
Saturday11:30am - 1:00pmClosed
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