It’s time for another Austin Sports Medicine 101 class! During our last couple of blogs, we discussed the difference between acute and chronic injuries and how to treat them. We learned that while chronic injuries are best treated with heat, acute injuries should be tackled with cold. Today we’re learning how best to use heat therapy on those chronic wounds.
- Heat is used for injuries that have no inflammation or swelling
- Heat therapy is ideal for sore, stiff, nagging muscle or joint pain
- Athletes with chronic pain or injuries may use heat therapy BEFORE exercise to increase the elasticity of joint connective tissues and to stimulate blood flow.
- Heat can also help relax tight muscles or muscle spasms. Don’t apply heat after exercise. After a workout, ice is the better choice on a chronic injury.
- Because heat increases circulation and raises skin temperature, you should not apply heat to acute injuries or injuries that show signs of inflammation.
- Safely apply heat to an injury 15 to 20 minutes at a time and use enough layers between your skin and the heating source to prevent burns.
- Moist heat is best, so you could try using a hot wet towel. You can buy special athletic hot packs or heating pads if you use heat often.
- Never leave heating pads on for more than 20 minutes at a time or while sleeping.
- Because some injuries can be serious, you should see your doctor if your injury does not improve (or gets worse) within 48 hours.