Cold, Hot and Combination Therapy

As with any treatment be sure to check with your chiropractor, for specific recommendations that relate to your condition.

Cryotherapy is a term that describes the application of ice compresses to reduce the temperature of tissues directly on or below the skin surface. Cryotherapy works on the surface cooling constricts blood vessels, numbs painful areas, and helps relax muscle spasms. Cold temperatures reduce nerve transmission of painful symptoms and provide temporary relief. Cooling affected tissues is effective in reducing and preventing post-traumatic swelling. Local cooling should be applied several times a day during the initial stages of an injury.

Cold Treatment:

Ice should be used on acute (injuries that have occured within the last 72 hours). The aim is to limit the body's response to the injury. It does this by reducing further bleeding into the injured tissues, preventing or reducing swelling, and reducing muscle spasm and pain. Ice should also be used for chronic conditions such as arthritis, tendonitis and overuse injuries in athletes and only after activities. This will help control the inflammatory process.

There are several methods for icing an injury. The first uses and ice pack. Place a thin layer of cloth over the injury to avoid frostbite. Place the ice pack over the cloth. Leave the ice on for 20 minutes. It is normal to go through phases of cold, burning, and then numbness. Do not leave the ice on for more than 20 minutes, or you can do more harm than good. Ideally, ice on an acute injury should be applied every 2-3 hours.

Hot Treatment:

Heat should be used for chronic injuries to relax and loosen tissues and stimulate blood flow to the area. Heat should be used before activities, not after. Do not use heat after an acute injury. It will increase bleeding and make the problem worse.

Moist hot towels are the most effective form of heat treatment. They are more effective because the moisture keeos the area from  drying out and becoming brittle. Place a washcloth under hot tap water, or heat it up slightyly in the microwave, and then apply it directly to the injured area. Heating pads will also work, as well as hot water bottles and soaking in a hot bath. Do not apply for more than 20 minutes at a time. Never fall asleep on a heating pad, and do not apply body weight to the heating pad (do not sitr or lie on it).

Combination Treatment:

48-72 hours after an injury, you can also use combination therapy to get the most benefit from heat and ice. To do this, alternate hot and cold packs for 10 minutes each. By alternating, you keep the swelling under check with the ice, and keep blood and its nutrients circulating through the area with the heat. Be sure to always end with ice, so that the heat does not contribute to further swelling.

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