Applying Heat to an Injury - The do's and dont's

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

We are always getting asked questions at the practice but one in particular seems to just come up time and time again.

Which question is it you ask? It's usually "should I use heat or ice for that?"

Thing is, there is so much confusion out there around what to use, not to mention all the conflicting opinions which adds to the confusion even more. So this is your "heat treatment 101".

Let's start off with first of all with what heat treatment is.

So, heat treatment is typically applied to a sore joint or muscle in the form of a heating pad, hot water bottle, gel pack or even hot water baths. The key to remember is that the temperature should be warm and not HOT and the device you use should be able to maintain the temperature as long as possible.

When you apply heat to the affected area, it opens up blood vessels which increase blood flow and oxygen and as a result, there is a relaxation and pain relieving effect. Because of the way that heat affects the body, namely by increasing blood flow and achieving a relaxation effect, it is particularly useful when a joint is stiff and limited in range of motion, as well as excessively tight muscles or area of spasm.

So now that you know how it works and where to use it, let's take a look at some regular tips that we provide to our clients on, to help them move better and get maximum pain relief to enjoy a better quality of life.

  1. When you apply heat, generally keep it to 20 minutes or less unless advised by your practitioner.
  2. Avoid using heat where there is swelling, inflammation, an open wound or around stitches. Ice works better initially, then heat.
  3. When using a heat pad, avoid lying directly onto the device as you may burn your skin especially if you fall asleep on it.
  4. Do not use if diabetic or have poor circulation
  5. Relax and Enjoy!

We really like the benefits that heat treatment can provide and it really can be helpful in getting better pain relief, range of movement and quality of life. But at the end of the day, the deal breaker is this - use whatever you feel like!! See what you prefer at the time.

If its a hot day, the idea of adding a heat pack to your back might be the last thing you want to do! And ice is unlikely to be effective if you have a cold and hate the idea of being iced!!

The benefits are roughly equal.

If you want to chat about incorporating heat treatment into your management, or to just get some more guidance, call us and we'd be happy to help.

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