Heat Versus Cold – What to Use When Injured
Workout or exercise related injuries are very common. You might have experienced them at some or the other point. You might have sprained your ankle while on the treadmill or while jogging, got a muscle or nerve pull while doing push ups or squats, or just got a muscle cramp while doing stretching exercises or cardio. The most common first line of treatment is using either hot therapy or cold therapy to relax the affected area. It is very crucial to use the right method to treat the injury; else, you might end up making matters worse!
Types of workout related injuries
Acute Injuries – Acute injuries are sudden. They occur when you have had a fall, a twisting movement or a direct blow to some body part. These injuries cause immediate symptoms like pain, bleeding, inflammation, tenderness, redness or swelling within 48 hours of the traumatic incident.
Chronic Injuries – Chronic injuries do not have a sudden onset. Chronic injuries are slow to develop. They develop gradually over time and are mostly caused due to excess strain on a particular body part or when an acute injury has not healed from within.
What to use when?
Cold therapy is usually used to treat acute injuries. Apply ice on the injured area to reduce the pain. It helps decrease inflammation. Cold therapy constricts blood vessels and limits blood supply to the site of injury. If you feel the cold is very intense to bear, you can wrap the ice in a handkerchief and apply it to the area. You may even apply crushed ice to the area.
Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation (RICE) Technique
You may even adopt the RICE technique to treat sports or exercise related injuries. The first line of action to treat any sport related injury is to take rest immediately. Continuing the exercise or sport can aggravate the injury and lead to major damage. The second step is to apply ice to the affected area to reduce the pain and swelling. You can also use compression therapy to prevent swelling on the site. A compression bandage or elastic bandage may be used for the same. Elevation of the injured limb helps decrease blood supply to the wounded site and thus reduces the pain and inflammation associated with it.
Heat therapy is used to relax chronic wounds. Application of heat therapy in the form of hot water bottles, hot water bags, heating pads or warm damp towels helps relax tight muscles, reduces muscle aches and increases blood supply to the area. One has to be very careful to apply heat therapy to injuries that have no inflammation or swelling. Heat should not be applied to an injury for more than 15-20 minutes at a time.
You should always take help from a professional before trying to treat any work-out related injury treatment. It is best to consult you exercise personal trainer who can suggest you remedies for your injury. If the injury doesn’t heal within 48 hours, or if you feel the symptoms have worsened leading to fever, excess inflammation or bleeding; consult your doctor immediately.