Both hot and cold water therapy have their health benefits. After suffering from an injury, people may be unsure which therapy to apply; however, the choice of therapy depends on the injury. The fact remains, both therapies facilitate the healing process.
Heat is known to relax the muscles. When it comes to treating an injury, heat is used for chronic injuries, (a slow-developing injury that occurs throughout time, is constant, or returns) or injuries that have no inflammation or swelling. Heat therapy is ideal for sore and stiff muscles, overused muscles, or joint pain. Heat therapy causes the blood vessels to dilate which brings more blood to the area. It has a soothing affect that helps relieve pain and spasm(s).
You should not use heat to treat a new injury; wait until 48 hours have passed after the injury; do not use heat pads or hot towels for an extended period of time, or while sleeping. If heat is applied for a prolonged period of time, you could end up with: first degree burns, or in extreme cases third degree burns.
This therapy is used to dull and numb pain, reduce inflammation, and cool damaged tissue(s)–it is ideal for acute injuries (pain that occurs within within hours or minutes after the injury). Swelling and inflammation that occurs after an injury is due to leakage of blood from the ruptured capillaries. Cold application(s), help constrict the blood vessels; thus, preventing further leakage of blood and serum.
Try to apply ice to the injury as soon as possible. Make sure to watch the clock, and ice your injury for fifteen-to-twenty minutes, but never longer–you can cause damage to the tissues such as: frost bite.
Hot and cold therapy can diminish discomfort in a patient, and knowing which therapy to apply, can help prevent further damage to the injury.