When Is Heat Used for a Sports Injury?

When Are You Supposed to be Using Heat for Your Sports Injury?

Heat therapy should be used only when your symptoms of pain and swelling have already subsided after your injury. Usually, your pain and swelling subsides after a minor injury within one to three days. When swelling is still present, you may be advised to continue applying ice instead of heat as heat application can worsen your symptoms.

Once your symptoms have already cleared up, you may apply a warm compress or a hot pack to help increase blood flow to your injured tissue to aid in your healing. In addition, heat application helps to soften soft tissues such as muscles.

Hot packs or warm compress?

Hot pack application may be more ideal as the pack tends to hold heat for longer periods than a warm compress that tends to lose its heat every few minutes.

When using a hot pack, make sure that you wrap it with several layers of towel. Do not apply directly apply on your skin as this may cause burn injury. Apply the hot pack for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

If you're using a warm compress, make sure that the towel compress is warm and not too hot. You may have to re-dip or re-soak the towel every few minutes.

Warm water

Submerging your limb in warm water may be an alternative way of applying heat. The water should be warm and NOT boiling hot. Do this for about 15 to 20 minutes at a time.

Other ways heat can be applied

There are other ways in which heat can be applied in an injury depending on the part of your body affected and specific needs and goals including
  • Parrafin wax bath
  • Ultrasound (US)
  • Diathermy
  • Heat lamp

Burn injuries can happen in heat therapy when improperly applied. Ask your health care provider how to properly apply heat to your sports injury.

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