does heat or cold reduce swelling

Does Heat or Cold Reduce Swelling? – Fitoont

Whether abdominal cramps, muscle strains, bruises or sprained joints: does heat or cold reduce swelling in these cases? Also, when is it better to reach for a hot-water bottle and when for a cooling pad?

Whether it’s a kick in the shin or severe muscle soreness: pain and swelling, for example, after sport, can have very different causes. So does heat or cold reduce swelling and pain?

Whether it’s a bruised arm or a cracked foot: In the case of injuries of this kind, you should apply the RICE scheme. “It stands for: raise, ice, compression, elevation,” explains sports physician Axel Klein.

For example, after a painful kick to the shin during football: Here you should ideally raise the shin, put on a tight bandage, put on a cool pack and fix it with a light bandage.

Thermotherapy depends on the cause of the pain

The right decision requires some background knowledge about the cause of the pain: In the case of acute injuries that are accompanied by swelling or bruising, cold relieves the pain and reduces the swelling. Heat, on the other hand, relieves abdominal cramps and relaxes strained or tense muscles. But what effect do cold and heat have on the body and why do these thermal treatments help at all? And does heat or cold reduce swelling?

That’s how cold works, that’s how heat works?

Cold constricts blood vessels and reduces blood flow, thus cold may reduce swelling and bruising from spreading. In addition, cold dampens practically all local inflammatory processes. Cold pads or crushed ice cubes in a plastic bag are suitable for local cold treatment of acute injuries. It is important to avoid frostbite on the skin. Therefore, you wrap the cooling pad in a towel or put it in a washcloth so that it is not directly on the skin.

On the other hand, heat dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow, and thus heat may increase swelling. As a result, the tissue is better supplied with nutrients and oxygen. In addition, metabolic products are removed more quickly. Heat also relieves muscle tension, stiff joints and abdominal cramps. At home, hot water bottles, cherry pit pillows warmed in the microwave or a red light lamp are suitable for heat treatment. Some patients also benefit from special heat patches from the pharmacy that are stuck onto the painful area.

The rule of thumb

A simple rule of thumb helps when deciding between heat and cold for pain and does heat or cold reduce swelling?

  • Cool will reduce swelling, so, it used for acute injuries.
  • Heat will increase swelling, so, it used for tense muscles and stiff joints and all chronic ailments.

Cold Reduces Swelling and Pain

To answer this question, you should know does heat or cold reduce swelling? As we mentioned above, swelling occurs because small blood vessels are damaged. The cold causes the vessels to contract and close more quickly. Cooling also inhibits the transmission of pain signals to the brain. So it doesn’t hurt that much anymore.

The physiotherapist Kyrillos Mina advises using coolants for all acute injuries, including bruises or fractures – but never for open injuries.

How To Prevent Frostbite?

But caution is required when using it. If you are not careful, the worst that can happen is frostbite on the skin. “There are two cold reactions that you can feel,” says Gottfried. First, there is the first cold pain, which is completely normal and no reason to interrupt.

“Then you get used to it and the second cold pain follows. You have to be careful and interrupt the supply of cold to prevent frostbite,” says the expert from the German Society for Orthopedics and Orthopedic Surgery. This second cold pain is a signal that the body temperature is dropping, and that can go into dangerous areas.

If you move in the area of ​​cold showers or cold wraps, there is usually no danger, says Gottfried. For coolants like ice packs or granulated ice, which are around freezing, he recommends using them for 30 minutes at a time and then taking a break. “If you’re dealing with frozen ice compresses, you should definitely put a terry towel on your skin so that it doesn’t damage the skin. You should cool it for about 15 to 20 minutes.”

Too much cold is a hindrance

A fairly harmless variant: “You can always rub an ice cube over the spot,” advises Axel Klein. The body is not exposed to permanent cooling, but you always have an analgesic effect.

Klein recommends cooling an injured area repeatedly for a maximum of two days. “From the third day at the latest, you want to stimulate the metabolism again so that the tissue has as good a blood supply as possible,” he explains. Too much cold is a hindrance.

Under these conditions, coolants can easily be used at home without medical assistance. However, there are exceptions: “You should be careful with certain clinical pictures, for example, circulatory disorders or sensitivity to cold,” says Thomas Gottfried. The same applies to forms of sensory disturbances because the warning mechanisms are overridden: “Those affected often do not feel the pain caused by the cold.”

Heat Softens The Tissue

The application of heat, for example, in the form of cherry pit pillows, hot water bottles or red light lamps, can also relieve symptoms – but not in the case of acute injuries.

“Heat has the effect of softening the tissue,” explains Gottfried. This helps with overload syndromes, for example, with severe muscle soreness. “Heat is also suitable for tissue adhesions or scarring – it can be helpful for all connective tissue changes.”

Heat opens the vessels and widens them, improving blood circulation in the body. In addition, heat has a pain-relieving effect. “That’s why warming agents are also often used, for example, for menstrual pain or chronic inflammation,” says Gottfried.

Red Spots and Pain Are Warning Signals

If the heat causes red spots to appear on the skin, this is generally not dangerous. It’s a problem when there’s pain. Then there can already be a first-degree burn, says the expert. It is reversible, i.e. It heals without permanent damage, but nevertheless: pain in combination with redness should always be regarded as a warning signal.

Dr. Kyrillos advises always listening to your own feelings when applying heat. “It should be pleasantly warm, and doesn’t apply heat to any swelling area,” says the physiotherapist. A lot helps a lot is the wrong motto in this case. It is better to use a heating pad or a red light lamp several times a day than once for a long time.

“Caution is required with fresh infections,” says Thomas Gottfried. “Heat can be too much of a strain on the body.”

Important note: The information in no way replaces professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. The content of the telehealth fitoont platform cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.

Final Answer: Does Heat or Cold Reduce Swelling?

  • Cool will reduce swelling, so, it used for acute injuries.
  • Heat will increase swelling, so, it used for tense muscles and stiff joints and all chronic ailments.


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