Cold vs heat therapy – Cairns Podiatry Do’s and Don’ts

Both heat and cold therapy are common methods for the FNQ Podiatry and Orthotics treatment of painful or achy legs and feet; however knowing when and why to use each could significantly improve your outcome as they do both serve different purposes. 

As a general rule, cold therapy should be used as your first option in acute style injuries, for example an ankle sprain. The reason behind this is that ice constricts blood flow to an injured area which in turn reduces swelling aiding in maintaining normal mobility and joint motion, it limits sub-dermal bleeding and controls pain by numbing nerve fibres. Typically, an injury is classified as acute if it has been 0-4 days since the trauma occurred. Some more common methods of cold therapy include;

  • Ice bath/ foot bath 
  • Frozen bottle 
  • Cryotherapy 

On the other hand, heat therapy is best reserved for chronic injuries which are characterised by soreness, tension and a dull or achy pain. Naturally, heat produces the opposite effect to cold and therefore promotes blood flow by expanding blood vessels. This is an extremely important feature of heat therapy because with increased blood flow, comes an increase in the body’s natural healing mechanism. Along with circulation, heat therapy relaxes muscle fibres and increases mobility. Options for heat therapy include; 

  • Heat packs 
  • Warm compress 
  • Warm foot bath 
  • Hot shower 

To ensure your safety and to protect your skin, both heat and cold modalities should not be applied directly to the skin. The use of a protection barrier, e.g tea towel is recommended. If you are suffering from lower limb or foot pain give our friendly team a call today on 4045 5749 to book your initial FNQ Podiatry and Orthotics consultation.


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