The Touch: A periodic bulletin from Valley Healing Therapeutic Massage
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Spring/Summer 2015

The Great Debate:  Hot versus Cold

“When it hurts, should I use heat or cold?”

Many of our patients who are experiencing localized pain ask us this question.
Generally speaking, it’s the patient’s personal preference for heat or cold that dictates what is used. Having said this, here at the clinic we have observed that certain practices work better than others.
For recent acute injuries, that is within the first 72 hours, we recommend that a cold compress be applied to the injured area. This helps to dull the pain that accompanies the injury. Applying heat in this situation can make the pain worse.
Also, whether using heat or cold, it should be applied only for a short period of time, around 10-15 minutes. Leaving a compress on for longer can make the treatment less effective.
If you want to re-apply a compress, wait until the injured area has returned to normal body temperature, which is usually around one hour, before re-applying.
For comfort, whether using cold or hot packs, it’s a good idea to have a towel between the pack and your skin; otherwise the temperature difference can be too extreme.

What about gels, creams or prepackaged pads?

Are they more effective than the traditional ice pack or heat pack?
Some are more convenient, especially those with adhesive to keep them in position, but don’t have any more benefit than the pack you take from your freezer or microwave.
For discomfort that is not the result of a recent injury, such as a stiff knee or elbow, you may find that heat will provide more relief and effectively loosen the area for greater mobility.   
Some find that a moist heat pack (even if it’s just heat laid over a wet cloth) will penetrate into the area a bit better, but it really is up to you and what makes you feel better.

In review:

  • For acute injuries (the first 72 hours after an injury) cold works best.
  • For best results apply a cold or heat pack for a short period of time, 10-15 minutes.
  • Place a towel between the pack and your skin.
  • For ongoing conditions, with the above recommendations in mind, use heat or cold, whichever you like best.
You may also find that some gentle stretching will help to improve your range of motion, but be careful to never stretch to the point of pain.  

When To Seek Care

If you are injured and the ice/heat recommendations don’t bring relief and improvement within a few days, call to make an appointment for evaluation of your injury and potentially a massage or chiropractic adjustment.
Also, be cautious if you think that immobilizing a part of your body will help with healing and discomfort.
While you may think that putting your arm in a sling will help you heal, for instance, you could be creating shoulder issues if you immobilize for too long.
Or, if your injury lingers and you start to compensate, you can also create bigger problems.  For instance, what may start out as a sprained ankle can translate into lower back, hip, or knee issues if a person compensates too long. By favoring one part of the body, another part may be strained and create even more pain and reduced mobility.
If you have any further questions on this topic please get in touch with the clinic.

Refer-A-Friend Rewards!

Refer a friend or family member to Valley Healing Therapeutic Massage or Houlgrave Chiropractic during the months of June or July, and you will be entered into a drawing for a $25 gift certificate valid at either practice.

Spring is Here! Prevent Injuries!

If you are a “weekend warrior” who has come out of winter’s hibernation to embark on more physically stressful activities, whether it’s for fun or just doing outdoor chores, be careful.
If you have not been conditioning throughout the winter, strains occur more easily.
Tendonitis, including “tennis elbow,” and lower back issues are very common in the spring as activity levels increase.   

If you are not very active normally, try to ease into spring activities, rather than going full tilt right away.
But, if you do get strained, ice it first, and then schedule an appointment for a massage and/or adjustment to get back on your feet asap.
Happy Spring! 

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Phone: 250-941-8181

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