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Heat After an Injury

Topic Overview

Experts disagree about the use of heat after an injury. Some experts:

  • Do not recommend using heat because it may increase swelling, especially in the first few hours right after the injury. If you decide to use heat and you notice that the swelling increases, stop using heat and return to cold treatments.
  • Think heat speeds healing. Heat applied after an injury may help restore and maintain flexibility.
    • You can use a hot water bottle, a heating pad set on low, or a damp, heated towel.
    • Do not apply heat to an injury sooner than 48 hours after the injury.
    • To avoid burning your skin, do not use anything that feels too warm.
  • Think it is best to alternate between heat and cold treatments.

If you have diabetes or have areas of chronic numbness, do not use heat unless your doctor has told you to do so. Lack of feeling in the area could cause a burn.

Credits

Current as of: March 2, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Joan Rigg PT, OCS - Physical Therapy

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Here are a few additional resources as well:

World Health Organization
Centers for Disease Control

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