Differences Between Heat and Ice Therapy

Understanding the Difference Between Heat and Ice Therapy

As a patient at Action Physical Therapy, if you’re recovering from a sprained or twisted muscle, it can be extremely painful to live a normal life.  If you’ve injured your back, it’s even worse than a sprained or twisted ankle.  Outpatient physical therapy and/or occupational therapy is an essential component to rehabilitating your body after a health care set back.  Therapy is designed to help you regain full movement of your body to maximize your lifestyle and activity level.

When Ice Or Heat Therapy is Appropriate for Rehabiliation

You may even need surgery, with post-operative or orthopedic care. Your doctor or nurse may also recommend that you place hot packs or cold packs on the injured site. This is to decrease pain and speed healing.

But many people may be puzzled whether to apply heat or ice therapy to their specific injuries. If you’re treating from home until the clinic opens in the morning, here is some advice about the differences between the two.

Ice Therapy for Rehabilitation

What Types of Injuries Are Best for Ice Therapy?

Ice therapy is always done on acute or new injuries. Ice therapy is good for sprains as it involves treating tissue damage and inflammation around the injury site. These types of injuries are short-term. Just some examples are knee pain, ankle pain, muscle or joint pain, intense pain after exercise, or pain that feels red, or hot, or when you have a swollen body part. The ice pack can make the blood vessels constrict back to normal, and reduce the swelling.

Heat Therapy for Rehabilitation

What Types of Injuries Are Best for Heat Therapy?

If you have long-term pain or health conditions then heat therapy is your best bet. Chronic pain is for conditions that are lingering and taking a long time to heal, or pain that comes back time and again. Some common chronic conditions are caused by arthritis, old or reoccurring injuries, stiff joints, and muscle pain or soreness. The heat will allow the blood vessels to expand and help your muscles to relax. Heat will help to have a soothing effect on your body.

Main Differences Between Ice and Heat Therapy

As part of your physical therapy you’ll first be diagnosed with a health condition or injury. Depending on its type and how long you’ve had it will determine the type of physical therapy you receive. Since cold has the ability to constrict blood vessels, while heat expands blood vessels, the desired outcome is examined first. Just remember the rule that immediate injuries need to be treated with cold packs, while lingering injuries or pain you’ve had for some time can be treated with heat therapy.

There are many different ways to apply heat or ice therapy. You can buy special packs that can be heated up in boiling hot water or the microwave, or cooled down in the fridge or freezer. You can use ice and fill up a ziplock plastic bag and cover with a towel. You may also have a cold shower or a hot bath. Some people even alternate different types of therapy depending on where the injury is on the body.

If you need more information on physical therapy then we invite you to give us a call to book an appointment at one of our South Florida Outpatient Rehabilitation Clinics.

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