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Hot versus Cold: Exploring Hand Injury Management Techniques

Updated: Jun 14

Whether caused by accidents, sport, or repetitive strain, hand injuries are common. Two common treatment techniques are hot and cold therapy.

While both hot and cold therapy have their advantages, determining which technique to use depends on the nature of the injury and the stage of healing.

In this blog, we will delve into the benefits and applications of both hot and cold therapy, helping you to make an informed decision on which is best for your condition.

Cold Therapy

An ice packapplied to the hand to help reduce swelling

Cold therapy, also known as cryotherapy, is particularly beneficial for fresh injuries with acute pain, swelling or bruising.

For acute sprains, strains, or fractures a cold pack can reduce pain by numbing the nerve endings. Cold is also an effective way to minimize swelling as it constricts blood vessels, and reduces blood flow to the area.

Cold should only be applied for short periods, such as 15 to 20 minutes at a time, repeated frequently throughout the day, with breaks in between to prevent tissue damage. Be sure to wrap the cold pack in something like a tea-towel to protect your skin.

Don’t forget to also elevate your injured hand or wrist above your heart so that gravity can assist the reduction of swelling.

Hot / Heat Therapy

A Wheat-heat pack applied to the hand to increase bloodflow, reduce pain and stiffness

Hot therapy, or thermotherapy, is particularly effective for sore muscles and chronic conditions such as arthritis, chronic tendonitis, or repetitive strain injuries. The application of heat can relax muscles, tendons, and ligaments, reducing pain and stiffness. It is particularly useful for increasing the flexibility of stiff joints.

Heat helps dilate blood vessels, improving circulation and nutrient supply to the injured area which can accelerate the healing process. Heat is not desirable in the first few days after injury as the increased blood flow created by the heat, will tend to make swelling worse.

Heat is best applied for at least 5 to 10 minutes, to allow time for the heat to penetrate deep into the tissues. Care needs to be taken that the temperature of the hot pack is comfortable.

If you are unsure about which technique to use or if your injury is severe, we are here to help. Contact us today and begin your path to recovery and optimal hand function.

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