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When To Use Hot And Cold Therapy

Ever wonder what the best possible way is to use hot and cold therapy?

What Does Cold Therapy Do?

Cold therapy or icing is placing very cold temperatures on a specific spot or injury. It is best to use cold therapy to reduce swelling and inflammation. According to LECOM Health swelling and inflammation is due to the leakage of blood from the ruptured capillaries. Cold applications can cause the blood vessels to constrict, which results in reduced swelling, reduced inflammation and up to 60% less pain.

What Does Heat Therapy Do?

Heat therapy, or heating, increases blood circulation by expanding the blood vessels. By increasing the blood circulation heating helps relieve pain, reduce stiffness and is best used on tight muscles or joints. This makes swelling and inflammation worse, but can be beneficial during the healing process.

When Is It Best To Use Cold Therapy?

It is best to use cold therapy as soon as possible after injury. Various studies have suggested that using cold therapy may only be beneficial for up to 72 hours after the injury. Then it is best to allow blood flow to promote the body's natural healing process.

When Is It Best To Use Heat Therapy?

Remember not to use heat therapy right after the injury! Heat therapy can be used about 48 hours after the injury. This opens up the blood vessels and promotes blood flow to aid the healing process.

How To Maximize the Benefits

Cold Therapy

  • Icing is most effective right after the injury

  • Ice for 15-20 minutes but no longer

  • Allow area to heat back up for at least 45 minutes before icing again

  • This can be done as frequently as you want but just make sure the spot is warm to touch before repeating.

Heat Therapy

  • Try to use moist heat because our bodies seem to react more quickly to moist heat than dry heat.

  • Heat for 20-30 minutes

  • Allow about an hour before repeating

  • It is optimal to perform heat therapy at least 3 times a day.

Why Alternate Between Hot and Cold Therapy?

Alternating between hot and cold therapy reduces pain while increasing blood flow.

How To Alternate Between Heat and Cold

This method can be done about 48 hours after the injury when the inflammation is gone and the natural healing process has begun. This method is also very effective on muscle strains, tight muscles and soreness.

Always remember to begin and end with ice to maximize results.

When using a cold tub and hot tub for alternating between hot and cold therapy for optimal results perform 1 minute of cold therapy then 3 minutes of heat. Repeat this cycle 4-5 times ending after cold therapy.

Physio Room suggests when using hot and cold compresses, alternate between hot and cold every 10 minutes for maximal results.

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