How to

27 April 2017

Hot and Cold Compresses - The Basics

Img: TESnet 
If you have sore muscles, joint pain or a sudden injury, it’s often asked which is best; a hot or cold compress. We’ve previously zoomed in on particular types of compresses, with techniques such as cupping, as well as the effects of cryotherapy, however here we’ll lay down the basics on when to use hot, and when to use cold.

Ultimately, it’s down to the type of injury, and most fall into one of two categories; acute injuries and chronic injuries.

Acute Injuries - Cold

Acute injuries are sudden injuries, which are normally caused by a fall or collision. A sudden sprained ankle or in worse cases, a broken bone are examples of acute injuries, where a sharp and intense pain is likely to be experienced.

Torn ligaments or muscles can be effectively treated with a cold compress, as ice is a vasoconstrictor. This means that ice shrinks the size of the blood vessels, therefore reducing blood flow in the area. The ice will numb or reduce the pain level when applied to the acute injury, as well as compressing swelling which will inevitably occur.

When applying the ice compress, ensure the skin is protected to prevent conditions like frostbite.

Chronic Injuries - Hot

Chronic injuries are often called overuse injuries, which as the name suggests, occur when a body part is overused causing prolonged pain. The pain of a chronic injury is of a smaller intensity than an acute injury; however the pain lasts longer and can be triggered to worsen by exercise.

Examples of chronic injuries include sore knees, often experienced by regular runners, or elbow pain, which is common in tennis players. Generally, due to the mild pain, many people with chronic injuries continue to exercise through them without properly treating, which can restrict them in a number of ways.

Those with chronic injuries are advised to apply a heat compress before exercise in order to increase flexibility and stimulate blood flow to the area. Heat also reduces muscle tightness, relaxing them and reducing the chance of spasm during exercise.


Laura Sewell

An aspiring journalist, Laura is our content writer intern.  Pop-punk gig-goer and drag queen enthusiast, Laura is working her way into the industry with an English A -Level and love of writing about anything and everything in tow.