COLD brings down inflammation and swelling. It is indicated after activity, such as exercising a swollen knee or ankle. Cold is indicated after work if pain increases during the work day. Cold is indicated the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury. Cold is better than heat if the painful area is swollen or hot to touch.
HEAT is used if the injury occurred more than 48 hours previously. Heat, such as a warm shower, is often used in the morning to make movement more comfortable and less stiff. Heat relaxes muscles and is often used to make movement tolerable, such as before exerting an arthritic joint.
Sometimes, after an injury, cold and heat applications are alternated every two hours. If either cold or heat causes pain to increase it should be discontinued. These pointers will help the next time you wondering whether to apply heat or cold to a sore area of your body.
Submitted by Amber Hahn, physical therapist at Agnesian HealthCare