Heat v. Ice
Patients frequently ask which modality is better for their condition – heat or ice. It is important to understand the benefits of each to know why one may be better than the other for specific conditions. Your physical therapy sessions may include one or both treatments depending on your diagnosis. Your physical therapist may also recommend that you apply heat or ice at home to your affected treatment area.
Ice packs, ice massages, and cryo-pneumatic braces are all forms of cryotherapy. Cryotherapy is the removal of heat from the body part to reduce inflammation, decrease pain and muscle spasm, and promote vasoconstriction. These are all top priorities in an acute, or new, injury such as an ankle sprain. Ice can also help reduce pain associated with muscular soreness following physical therapy sessions or exercise.
Heat, on the other hand, increases the temperature of a body part to reduce pain, increase blood flow to increase healing rates, and improve collagen elasticity to “loosen” tight tissues. Heat can be a useful modality if your physical therapist is looking to reduce your pain or increase your range of motion by reducing overall stiffness. Ask your physical therapist who modality they would recommend for your condition!
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