Sports medicine professionals see all types of injuries, and orthopedic ones are particularly common. In many instances, these types of injuries are treated with either hot or cold therapy. There are important differences between hot and cold therapy, and it is crucial to know which ailments require these treatments. For those who are treating their own orthopedic sports-related injuries, it is important to keep the following considerations in mind:
What is Cold Therapy?
Cold therapy simply refers to applying a cold compress to an injury. Sports medicine professionals use this process, sometimes called “cryotherapy,” to constrict the blood vessels to encourage healing. After getting hurt, the body naturally tries to begin healing itself. In order to accomplish this, it will rush blood to the area and provide additional oxygen and other nutrients to heal the wound. This process also activates the immune system by rushing white blood cells to fight the injury. The downside to this process is that it causes swelling, which can lead to pain and the inability to move the injured area. Applying a cold compress to these areas can slow the swelling and decrease pain.
Cold therapy should be used to treat anything that is acute. This includes areas that are red, warm, or swollen. It should not be used to treat any residual soreness after the initial injury.
What is Hot Therapy?
Heat therapy, also known as thermotherapy, has the opposite effect of cold. Heat causes blood vessels to expand and open. It relaxes the skeletal and soft muscle tissue by increasing the flow of important fluids through the vessels that supply oxygen to the wound so that it can heal. The open vessels also provide a way to dispose of damaged cells that occur when a wound is healing. Heat is typically used on aches that are at least one or two days old or on chronic pain. Take care when using heat, as burns to the skin can result if the compress is left on the area for a long period of time.
Is a Doctor Necessary?
Seeing a doctor or sports medicine professional for these types of injuries will depend on their severity. Once function in the extremity is lost, it is most definitely time to seek medical attention. Chronic pain should also be dealt with medically. If a bone could possibly be broken, it is crucial to seek the advice of a doctor. Any wound that seems as if it is not healing in a reasonable manner should also be examined to ensure that further damage to the body does not occur.
When it comes to orthopedic injuries, the best route to take is to see a doctor or sports medicine professional. However, for those who prefer to take treatment into their own hands, it is important to know when hot and cold therapy is appropriate. Understanding the reasoning behind theses processes will improve the patient’s chances of a full recovery.