Heat or cold pack

When Is It Best to Use a Heat or Cold Pack?

“It was hurting so much, so I took some painkillers and had a hot pack on…”

This is one of the most common responses I get in my practice when asked about relieving factors with patients that are experiencing acute symptoms; be it, a low back, neck, shoulder or foot pain.

Then, it will commonly be followed by a question such as this: “Err, I’m not sure to use hot or cold; should I have used cold pack instead?”

The general rule of thumb during acute traumatic situation, is to use a frozen or cold pack. Although the amount of time you leave a cold pack on is important, generally no longer than 10-15 minutes. Those situations include but not limited to whiplash, a fall, car accident, working in the garden, bending down to pick up a pen, playing with your kids, a sudden twist or turning motion that started it all and so on

Cold pack on Ankle

In most of these cases, the pain symptoms are as a result of a sprain/strain injury. A sprain/strain injury will call forth a circuit of biological and physiological events to take place in our body, more commonly known as the inflammatory process kick start, so that the damage tissue can heal; but this also meant the injured region will be “congested” as blood flow to the area increased. Applying heat pack on the affected area may help with de-sensitization of pain, but the problem is it will cause an “over-increase” of blood flow and will instead cause more swelling follow by more pain afterwards.

Now, don’t get me wrong, heat pack is an excellent choice if your symptoms are not acute i.e. degenerative arthritic pain that you have been putting up with for a while now, or that post-activity general muscle soreness that you get, in most these cases, a warm bath will definitely help.

So, the next time if you bend down and pick up that pen or piece of paper , and your back goes out, always use a ice or cold pack (and remember, no direct skin contact because that will give you frost bite!), and call the clinic on 1300 432 639 or make an appointment with one of our experienced practitioners.

About the Author Dr Woon Jee Tio

Dr Woon Jee has achieved a Double degree Bachelor of Science (chiropractic) and Bachelor of Chiropractic....she treats a diverse group of people that include elite athletes and musicians. Dr Tio’s treatment helped them to quickly recover from injuries or strains and maintain the intense training and practice regime required of them.