What's hot and what's not in the treatment of summer strains and sprains

    Canadian Physiotherapy Association offers cool advice on hot and cold

    TORONTO, June 27 /CNW/ - Summer is heating up and as Canadians spend more
time doing outdoor activities, the likelihood of injury increases. Even a
simple sprained ankle can mean weeks off your feet - leaving you in pain, and
ruining your summer vacation. Timely and proper treatment of an injury is
crucial for recovery. But just how do you deal with those summer strains and
sprains? "Should I use hot or cold?" is one of the questions physiotherapists
get asked most frequently. If used correctly following an injury or when
beginning a rehabilitation or exercise program, hot and cold can help to
reduce pain, assist with tissue healing, control swelling, and increase
flexibility. If used incorrectly, however, they can worsen an injury or slow
recovery times. Here's some timely advice on the use of hot and cold.

    Cold Therapy

    Cold is applied in the acute stage of an injury (the first 24-48 hours)
to prevent tissue damage. It can be used after the first 48 hours if
inflammation persists. The "PRICE" protocol (Protection, Rest, Ice,
Compression and Elevation) should be used to manage an injury in this early
stage when swelling and pain are at their peak. Cold may also be applied after
an exercise program to prevent or reduce pain, or to ease muscle spasms.
    When applying ice to the skin, it is important to use a damp towel
between the ice and the skin to increase effectiveness and decrease the risk
of nerve or skin damage which could lead to frostbite. Cold therapy may be
applied periodically throughout the day for approximately 10 to 15 minutes at
a time. When using ice packs or other cooling agents, it is important to
visually check the area that is being treated every five minutes or so.
    While there may be discomfort and redness initially, treatment should be
discontinued if these symptoms persist. It is recommended that people with
certain medical conditions not use cold therapy. For a list of these
conditions please refer to our new consumer information sheet "Hot or Cold for
Sprains, Strains and Other Injuries" on our website www.physiotherapy.ca

    Heat Therapy

    Heat is often used in the chronic phase of an injury. It may also be used
prior to therapy or exercise to decrease muscle tension and increase
flexibility and range of motion. It also plays a role in pain management and
reduction of muscle spasms, muscle tension, and joint stiffness. Moist heat
such as the hot packs used in physiotherapy clinics is preferred over dry heat
such as cloth bean bags, because damp heat penetrates deeper.
    To create moist heat at home when using a non-electrical heat source,
first wrap a damp towel around the hot pack, cover with dry towelling and
apply it to the treatment area. No matter what type of heating agent you use,
several layers of towelling should be used as a barrier between the skin and
the hot pack to help prevent skin irritation or burns. Hot packs should be
applied for 15 to 20 minutes. Visually check the skin every five minutes and
discontinue treatment if there are persistent abnormal changes in skin colour
or you experience increased discomfort. Do not lie on a hot pack or apply heat
at bedtime since it increases the likelihood of burns resulting from close or
prolonged contact with the heat source.
    Heat therapy should be avoided in the acute phase of an injury when
swelling is present and the skin is hot to touch.
    It is recommended that people with certain medical conditions not use
heat therapy. For a list of those conditions you can also refer to the new
consumer information sheet Hot or Cold for Sprains, Strains and Other Injuries
on our website www.physiotherapy.ca

    Not sure which option is best for you? Talk to a physiotherapist!

    Both hot and cold therapies have a role to play in speeding your recovery
or helping you reach your rehabilitation and training goals. If you question
whether to use hot or cold, or if you are unsure about the nature or severity
of your injury, talk to your physiotherapist. He/she can advise you on the
proper use of hot or cold for your situation or specific condition.
    Physiotherapists are healthcare professionals who help people of all ages
and lifestyles gain and maintain their desired level of active living and
physical mobility. With their applied knowledge and understanding of the human
body in action, physiotherapists are able to help you to increase your
mobility, relieve pain, build strength, and improve balance and cardiovascular
function. Physiotherapists not only treat injuries, they also teach you how to
prevent the onset of pain or injury which can limit your activity.

    About CPA

    The Canadian Physiotherapy Association is the national voluntary
professional association, representing more than 10,000 members across the
country. CPA's mission is to provide leadership and direction to the
physiotherapy profession, foster excellence in practice, education and
research, and promote high standards of health in Canada. Additional
information can be found on our website.

For further information:

For further information: Media contact for information and spokesperson
interview: Virginia Bawlf, National Media Relations Liaison, (416) 932-1888
(x222), (647) 379-4145 (cell), vbawlf@physiotherapy.ca

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