Heat after an injury

Heat applied after an injury can help restore and maintain flexibility. You can apply heat with 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 apply anything that is uncomfortably warm.

Some experts do not recommend applying heat to an injured area because it may increase swelling. Others recommend heat to speed healing. Still others recommend alternating between heat and cold treatments. If you decide to use heat and you notice that the swelling increases, stop using heat and return to cold treatments.

If you have diabetes or have areas of chronic numbness, do not apply heat to injured areas unless your health professional has told you to do so. Lack of sensation in the area could result in a burn.

Last Updated: July 28, 2008

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