Ice packs and heating pads are among the most commonly used treatments for strains, sprains and spasms. But how do you know which to use, and when? Hot or cold, and how much and how often? That's the focus this week for Dr. Tedd Mitchell. He's the president of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. And this is the President's Prescription.
Did you know it is possible to get frostbite in the middle of a Texas summer? Improper use of cold or hot therapy to relieve back or joint pain can make a bad situation worse.
When you pull a muscle or twist an ankle, temperature therapy can be a beneficial part of the healing process. Cold numbs pain and reduces inflammation. Heat soothes stiff joints and relaxes muscles. However, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
When using hot or cold treatments, it is important to use a moderate temperature. Never leave heating pads or ice packs on your skin for extended periods of time, as both can cause serious burns.
As a general rule, ice should be applied every 20 minutes for the first 48 hours after an injury occurs to help minimize swelling. Heat may be used later to help stimulate blood flow. Alternating the two and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen may also help ease soreness.
Hot and cold therapy is just one aspect of treatment for acute or chronic injuries. Talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pain by strengthening muscles, restoring joint flexibility and motion, and improving your overall fitness.
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