Foot pain and inflammation won’t go away without help. Applying heat or ice to the affected area eases discomfort considerably, but it’s important to use the right method for your condition.
How Does Cold Therapy Work?
Cold constricts blood vessels and this decreases blood flow and reduces swelling and bruising. It also numbs nerves and tissues, which eases pain and inflammation.
Apply cold with an ice gel pack, frozen peas or cold bath, depending on your preference. You can even get cold therapy socks that contain chilled gel packs – it’s like an ice pack for your feet, which can be ideal for foot pain.
When Should You Use Cold Therapy?
Cold treatment is the best approach for acute injuries such as sprains, strains, ligament tears and fractures. With so many bones and joints in your feet and ankles, inflammation of the connective tissues is always a possibility.
Plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, gout and metatarsalgia are some of the conditions that cold therapy can treat.
How to Apply Cold Therapy
Whatever you use, always make sure it’s wrapped in a towel rather than applied to the skin directly. If you’re soaking your foot in water, it should be cold but not freezing.
Apply cold to the affected area for 10 to 20 minutes several times a day. The times and duration can vary depending on your situation. Check with a podiatrist to find out what’s best for you.
When to Avoid Icing
Sufferers of certain conditions should avoid the cold method. If you have diabetes, Reynauld’s Syndrome, cardiovascular or heart issues, or are hypersensitive to cold then this approach isn’t for you. You should certainly get advice from a professional in these cases.
How Does Heat Therapy Work?
By heating the affected area, you encourage the blood vessels to dilate which improves circulation. A good blood supply nourishes muscles, ligaments and bones with essential nutrients and oxygen. It also removes waste products such as carbon dioxide. This eases pain and promotes healing.
Apply heat with a hot water bottle (wrapped in a cover), wheat bag, warm towel, heat pad or warm bath. And don’t forget, a nice warm bath is very comforting when you’re not feeling great.
When to Use Heat Therapy
Heat works best for chronic conditions such as ongoing muscle or joint pain and stiffness. This may be the after effect of injury or the result of a condition such as arthritis. Muscle spasms and foot pain resulting from injuries also benefit from a comforting wheat bag.
Cold is best for the initial treatment of sprains and strains, but once the worst of the swelling and bruising has eased heat is very soothing for battered muscles and torn tendons.
The Best Way to Apply Heat
Dry heat (hot water bottle or heat pad) can be applied for several hours (approximately 8 hours if required). Moist heat (baths or heat packs) can be used for up to 2 hours, although that’s a long time to sit in a bath!
Generally, apply heat for 20 minutes several times a day. As usual, your podiatrist will advise on the best course of action for your situation.
When to Avoid Heating
New injuries, infections and burns should never be treated with heat. If you suffer from high blood pressure or a heart condition, it’s also important to ask a professional before using heat therapy. Heat should also be avoided on open wounds or skin conditions such as dermatitis.
Advice You Can Trust at Feet By Pody
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