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Why Cold Should Be Used Before Heat for Injury

Posted by Vallerie Mellema on 3rd Feb 2016

When you sustain an injury like a sprain, muscle pull or tear, or contusion (bruise), you may be confused about when to apply cold and when to apply heat, as well as the reasoning behind the timing of each of these therapies. There is a rhyme and reason to the order and mechanisms behind the application of cold and heat for injury.

Which to Apply First

Cold should always be used first, and can be used on muscle strains or pulls, sprains, fractures, and contusions. Ice should be applied in conjunction with compression and elevation throughout the first 48-72 hours depending upon how long the swelling lasts.

The reason for cooling an injury before applying heat is multi-fold. Injuries like a muscle pull can create tiny tears throughout the tissues, and contusions are made up of many tiny broken blood vessels. Blood rushes to the site immediately following an injury, creating inflammation. Cold reduces blood flow, which helps to stop the internal bleeding. It also deadens nerve sensation which greatly reduces or eliminates pain.

Another important consequence of cold therapy is that the pain relief offered results in a quicker return to activity. In the past, it was thought that people with an injury should delay motion in order to give the wound time to heal. Medical knowledge has changed and experts now know that movement actually speeds healing by stimulating regeneration of tissues, so it’s much better to get up and into motion as quickly as possible following an injury or surgery.

The Role of Heat

Heat therapy does have a place in healing. Once swelling and inflammation have been brought under control by cold compression therapy, heat may be applied in order to decrease joint stiffness and help with muscle spasms. Hot compresses improve blood flow which is why their use should be delayed until after the risk of internal bleeding has passed. This is why it’s a good idea to use swelling and redness as a good indicator of how long to continue with cold compression therapy – both of these signs mean that blood flow is still too vigorous for heat.

The Ideal Way to Administer Cold Compression

Don’t reach for that bag of frozen peas and ACE bandage just yet. Technology has made applying cold compression easier than ever with the MOOVE Portable Cold Compression System. This advanced machine cycles ice cold water through attached wraps that are perfectly designed to cradle the injured area and deliver cold and pressure at the same time. The user controls every aspect of their experience – ice water circulation time, compression timing, and the amount of pressure that the wrap provides.

Running to the doctor or the physical therapist every time you pull a muscle or sustain a sprain can become time consuming and expensive. Investing in either the purchase or rental of a MOOVE puts your treatment in your hands and makes it available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. No more messy, wet ice packs and trying to balance the pack in just the right place to put proper pressure on the injury. Now you can quickly and simply bring swelling down, alleviate pain and inflammation, and stop internal muscle bleeding efficiently and without leaving the comfort of your own home.

Be sure to follow your care provider’s advice regarding administration of cold and heat therapies so that you can optimize your healing and get back to normal life as quickly as possible.