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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.

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    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: June 27, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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