Hot and cold therapies have been mainstays forever in the world of physical therapy, thanks both to their simplicity and their effectiveness. Ice is naturally ideal for controlling new injuries, as well as any inflammation or swelling that a person experiences. While some inflammation is good—it serves as a body’s natural response to injury—applying cold can help reduce some of the excessive swelling that might otherwise occur.
Heat therapy, meanwhile, is ideal for chronic injuries, as it involves increasing blood flow to certain areas of the body to relieve stiffness, soothe aching joints, relax muscles and open up the blood vessels. The goal is to improve the flexibility of ligaments and tendons in the area and reduce muscle spasms. Ideally, heat therapy is used after your inflammation has passed.
So how exactly do you use hot and cold therapy? Here’s some information about these forms of physical therapy in Napa County, CA.
Whenever you apply ice to an injured area, you should make sure you do not keep it held against the area in question for too long. Between 10 and 20 minutes, but absolutely no more than 20 minutes at a time, is the ideal prescribed usage for cold therapy.
You’ll want to do your best to avoid cold burns, which is one of the reasons why you’ll need to avoid keeping the cold pack on for too long. Cold burns can actually reverse the effect you get from icing, in which the body attempts to warm up the area by increasing blood flow. For this reason, you might wish to wrap the cold pack in a rag or towel so you don’t apply it directly to the skin, which could make a cold burn more likely.
Use the ice periodically in the first two days after the injury. You can use various gels and other cold packs for icing, or make your own by putting ice and a little water into a plastic zip bag.
Heat, like ice, should never be applied for more than 20 minutes at a time. It’s also not the best route to take if you sustained your injury recently, or are recovering from a surgery. You should always wait until your inflammation has gone down so you’re not interrupting the body’s natural response to your injury or surgery.
If you’ve been experiencing tight muscles on a recurring basis, heating the area in question can be a great step. Some gentle warmup or stretching can naturally heat the area, but you can use heat packs strategically as well. You’ll be able to find heated gel packs or electric heating pads, or simply use steamed towels or take a nice long bath or shower. You want to be warm enough to relax your muscles, but not so hot that you burn yourself.
For more information about using hot and cold treatments as part of your physical therapy in Napa County, CA, contact Focus Forward Wellness & Physical Therapy today.
Categorised in: Physical Therapy
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