When Are Hot Packs Too Much?

Heat and cold application can both be helpful for recovery from daily aches and pains as well as for an injury. Heat application is particularly useful for low back pain and discomfort associated with prolonged sitting. Hot showers and baths can be very relaxing and soothe irritated muscles and joints. However, sometimes heat application is not ideal.

woman grabbing injured ankle

A recent fresh, acute injury is a situation where heat application should be delayed. Recent acute injuries bring a level of inflammation, heat, and swelling as part of the healing process. After a recent injury inflammation gets the healing process going. Some acute injuries may include pulling your back when bending or lifting, overusing your shoulders, or being injured in an auto accident.

In these situations, you may be tempted to go for a heat pack to sooth the pain, particularly since heat works so well for chronic pain. Often pain will improve during application of heat even when suffering from an acute injury. However, heat helps mobilize fluid and can lead to excessive swelling and increase in Treating Inflammation of the injured area. When heat is removed this can result in return or increase in pain. Applying heat for too long can result in burns, even when the heat source doesn’t seem very hot.

Tired business lady in car feeling strong neck pai

Cold therapies result in constriction of blood vessels and help limit early swelling and inflammation. Cold therapies also help manage the acute pain that is present soon after an injury. Acute inflammation and swelling often improve within 2 weeks of an injury, but can persist for longer with severe injuries or injuries that are aggravated by activities.

Acute injuries that result in inflammation and swelling can result from minor sprains and strains, but can also be a sign of more significant injuries such as tears, laxity, or broken bones. Your Chiropractor will be able to diagnose and treat many acute musculoskeletal injuries that result in swelling and inflammation and make proper referrals for severe cases. Contact your Chiropractor if you have been injured or involved in an auto collision.