Do I Use Heat Therapy Or Cold Treatment For My Sports Injury

applying ice for a sports injuryOnce you sustain any type of athletic related injury, what most wonder is what immediate treatment is advised, to apply heat therapy or ice packs once a body part such as a swollen knee gets injured, this to rehabilitate and heal as soon as possible.

There’s also certain primers on when to apply ice and when to use heat depending on what type of injury that’s sustained, such as muscle pull or strain, a sprain, or overall body pain. Some claim that altering between hot to cold therapy is often the best solution.

At times, it’s found the sudden change in temperature can be the most effective, applying heat on the injury and then the contrast of cold ice. What the heat does is it allows the blood vessels to dilate, while the cold contracts the blood.

Alternating between both hot and cold acts similar to the workings of a pump which increases circulation, this by providing a flushing effect which drains out the excess fluid from the injured area.

What doing so does is it decreases the swelling while allowing the blood to bring in much needed nutrients and oxygen to the injured area, which can then increase and accelerate the healing process in the tissue.

The proper ratio of applying heat and cold should be around 3 minutes for a heat pad to 1 minute for an ice pad. This should be repeated two to three times in succession. This technique works because what the application of ice does is it reduces the chances of swelling.

The Effects Of Applying Heat
The application of heat plays several roles when it comes to tissue and muscle repair as well as accelerating the healing process. The initial purpose of applying heat is to help in the local dilation of the blood vessels.

What this then does is it increases blood flow directly to the specific injured area, which then allows the deoxygenated blood to drain out while flushing out the built up metabolic waste.

New blood is then able to flow into the damaged area, bringing fresh nutrients and oxygen which promotes for quicker recovery. Applying heat also helps decrease the perception of pain.

What any injury does is it forces the nerves to send out pain signals directly to the muscle and brain. This nerve irritation can be distracted somewhat from applying heat, which diminishes the pain signals from the nerves.

The tension in the area is reduced because of the decrease in pain. What heat can also do is reduce muscle tension along with spasms which may occur once the body feels pain.

When To Apply Heat
The best times to apply heat therapy is when the conditions of the injury are considered chronic, such as the injury lingering for a couple of weeks or longer.

For acute injuries which have just occurred, the area will usually sustain a bit of inflammation, so applying the heat can prove to be detrimental when wanting to reduce the swelling.

The blood vessels surrounding the injured area can also become weakened, as it’s not able to handle the sudden increase of blood flow that the heat provides.

Other areas where heat therapy application can be effective are tension headaches, along with conditions such as a chest cold, sinusitis, and respiratory tract infections. Those with health conditions such as osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia will also often find relief when using various forms of heat therapy.

Health practitioners will also often apply heat before using deep tissue treatments such as ART, Active Release Techniques, massage therapy, or for myofascial release.

Doing so makes the tissues a lot more pliable, this so that the treatment can reach deeper levels of the muscle. The best solution is applying the heat for 10 minutes per interval and then repeated two to three times for best results.

The Application Of Ice
The application of ice packs remains the most common remedy when it comes to any recent or sudden muscle strain or injury, thus acronyms such as Rest Ice Compress and Elevate (RICE) are used.

It’s thought that ice packs for maximum effect should be applied immediately to any injury ASAP. The application of sudden cold is important for any tissue or muscle related injury to reduce swelling.

What the cold does is it immediately constricts the blood vessels, which lessen the flow of blood from the injured area once the ice is applied, which as a result lessens the inflammation and the initial sharp pain of injury.

The ice is also known to have an analgesic effect, which makes the injury feel not as painful, this by slowing down the nerve impulses which are responsible for delivering the pain signals to the brain.

When Ice Therapy Should Be Used
Ice is best used for acute injuries such as recent strains, sprains, fractures, and bruises. It’s most effective when applied from the exact moment of the injury to up to 72 hours.

What ice application can also be used for are flareups from the overuse of muscles, along with muscle soreness and tendinitis. Ice can also be effective for headaches, or directly after receiving deep tissue treatments which limits the flow of blood.

When applying ice for maximum effect and safety, it’s recommended that a wet towel be used as a buffer between the skin and the ice, this to avoid any freezing of the skin.

It’s best to leave the ice applied until the skin turns into a light pale pinkish color, which usually takes around 10 minutes, then alternate by taking the ice off for 10 minutes, and then repeat 2 to 3 times for maximum effect.

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