While ice helps injured joints, heat may worsen the problem
If you have ever sprained your ankle, you probably would have been given conflicting advice and been caught in this dilemma: apply heat or ice?
The correct answer is ice, experts say.
Early application of heat may result in a longer healing time.
“Heat application is not recommended in the early stage of an injury – within the first two to three days, when there is active inflammation.”
Applying heat to the affected area may cause blood vessels there to expand and increase blood flow to the area which, in turn, will increase swelling.
Heat is useful only in situations involving painful muscle spasms, such as back injuries or chronic joint injuries, that are slow to heal. In such cases, heat helps to reduce stiffness and provide relief.
For common joint injuries such as sprains, dislocations and ligament tears, the Rice (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) technique is the best immediate treatment.
The most commonly injured joints are the ankle and the knee.
For these joints, injury symptoms may include a “pop” sound, followed by pain, swelling and in some cases, feeling unstable while walking.
The patient should first stop exercising that joint and rest it. He should then apply ice wrapped in a towel to the joint.
This involves pressing the ice firmly onto the affected area for 15 to 30 minutes or using the ice to massage the area for seven to 10 minutes.
The patient should then use a bandage to continue applying pressure to the injured joint.
An indication that too much pressure has been applied is when the part beyond the bandage looks a little blue or feels numb or painful.
Finally, keep the limb with the injured joint elevated by placing supports, such as pillows under it.
The injury is usually serious if the pain persists for more than a week or if there is severe swelling or bruising.
In general, you should get an injured limb checked by a doctor early. Injuries should be assessed by a doctor as you do not want to delay taking care of potentially serious injuries that could have benefited from early intervention.