One of the questions that we get almost every day is when to use ice or heat on an injury. Below are some general guidelines, but you should always check with your therapist or physician before trying new treatment methods. When using an ice pack or heating pad, please be careful and check your skin regularly.
When to Use an Ice Pack
As a general rule of thumb, ice is used to reduce swelling and manage pain. This means that we use ice with an acute injury, or immediately after surgery. We typically recommend frequent icing (4-5 times per day) immediately post surgery or with an acute injury. Please check with your physician or therapist for specific recommendations for you. We also use ice throughout treatment as long as you experience swelling. When your injury is new, you want to use ice consistently, but after a few weeks you will only need to apply ice after a treatment session or after doing your home exercises. This is because ice is a much better pain reliever than heat. Ice also helps to prevent swelling after an exercise session.
When to Use a Heating Pad
Heat is used to promote healing and reduce stiffness. In therapy, we use heat prior to any exercises, as it warms tissues and prepares them to stretch. If you have significant swelling, we may not recommend you use heat before exercising since it can increase swelling.
These are just general guidelines- when you are in therapy, your therapist will help you develop a treatment plan that is best for you.
Have you sustained an injury between or including your shoulder and fingertips? Do you suspect that your workplace environment is causing you pain? If so, you could be a candidate for hand therapy services at LB Hand Therapy in Maryland. Visit our Where to Begin page to become a patient.