When you have an injury, all you want is relief from the pain. Well, pain relievers aren't always in pill form. Sometimes, simple hot and cold can ease those aches.
Pulling a muscle or twisting an ankle can make anyone uncomfortable. The body's response is a rush of cells that try to heal and protect the area, but those cells cause swelling, and the swelling causes pain.
St. Francis Physical Therapist Teresa Hoff says cold can calm the swelling, and the sooner, the better. If you don't have an ice pack in the freezer, don't worry. "I'll tell a lot of patients to use a frozen bag of vegetables, peas or corn. That's sometimes easier because you can mold it to the shoulder or knee," Hoff explains.
You can also use a wet towel and put it in the freezer for a few minutes. You can make another simple ice pack by filling a Ziploc bag with water and adding about a half cup of rubbing alcohol. Hoff says freezing it will create a gel-like ice pack.
Lleave the cold pack on for ten to fifteen minutes, but if you're in a rush, a quick ice massage could do the trick. Freeze some water in a dixie cup, peel back the paper and massage for 3 to 5 minutes.
After the first 72 hours, use heat to relieve the pain. "Heat can be very soothing and help you get to sleep or get more comfortable," Hoff says. Simply wet a towel under hot water, and put it in the microwave for a few seconds. Then apply to the painful spot.
A hot bath or shower could also relax stiff muscles, or try a heating pad on a low or medium setting, but no longer than 20 to 30 minutes. "You leave it on too long, and too much blood flow comes to the area, and you get increased swelling," explains Hoff.
So ice, then heat, and before you get stiff, get back on your feet.
Hoff says if you're pregnant, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or any vascular disease, check with your doctor before using hot and cold treatments.