Cold packs or ice should be used on fresh injuries within the first two to three days, but may be used for flare-ups of chronic conditions. Cold therapy has the following benefits:
- Reduces swelling and inflammation
- Produces a numbing effect than can reduce pain
- Decreases blood flow to an area
- Decreases muscle spasms
Heat therapy is recommended for chronic, long-term ailments, including muscle tightness and tension. It should be applied for no longer than 15 minutes at a time and may be used several times per day. Popular choices are microwaveable heating packs, bean bags or electric heating pads.
The benefits of heat therapy include:
- Increased blood flow to an area optimizing the healing/rehabilitation environment
- Relief from tension or tightness in muscles and joints
- May provide pain relief
It's important to remember that homecare is not a substitute for care provided by your physician. In the case of serious injury, always seek treatment in an emergency care facility.
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