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Julia asked...

Is it better to use hot or cold packs during injury?

Many people suggest hot or cold packs for sports injury and some recommend swapping between hot and then cold. When is best to use what?

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The answer

There is often debate as to whether heat or cold is better for sports injuries. In the first 24 to 48 hours after injury there is good evidence that cooling is preferred to heat. A new injury will produce an acute inflammatory reaction which is important for the healing process but too much of this response can lead to delayed recovery. Ice packs applied at this time will reduce excessive swelling allowing the injured area to be mobilised sooner than might otherwise have been allowed. Cooling is also beneficial for muscle recovery immediately after intense exercise and for pain control in the weeks following injury. Heat treatment can be helpful in reducing joint and soft tissue stiffness in the weeks following injury.

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