When should we use a cold or heat pack?
There is a great deal of confusion when you should apply a cold or heat pack to an injury and it is always advisable to seek medical advice prior to use.
The cold helps reduce inflammation and swelling which causes pain. It can also temporarily reduce nerve activity providing short term relief.
Always ensure you wrap the cold pack in a dry tea towel before applying as this will prevent ice burn and damage to your skin and tissues. Apply for no more than 20 minutes and then repeat an hour from the last application. Cold packs are useful when:
- the injury has occurred within 72 hours
- there is swelling and pain
- a chronic injury has been reaggravated
The heat encourages blood flow to the injured site which promotes healing, muscle flexibility and general comfort.
Ensure the heat pack is wrapped in a dry tea towel or protective cover to avoid burning the skin. Apply the heat for no more than 20 minute episodes, an hour from the last application. Heat packs are useful when:
- the injury has occurred more than 72 hours after the incident
- there is minimal swelling and pain
- the injury feels stiff, not painful