Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Hand FAQ

Question:

I see lots of advertising for these new heated wraps. You can put them on your back, knee, shoulder--just about anywhere. I thought heat was bad and we should only use ice for sprains and strains.

Answer:

The RICE formula (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) still applies for all acute injuries. This means ice is best and should be used during the first 24 to 48 hours after injury. During the early phase of injury the body overreacts and sends too many cells to help out with the inflammation. Ice helps slow down the amount of blood (and inflammatory cells) to the area. Once the initial healing response is launched then heat can be helpful, too. This isn't until at least 48 hours (or more) after the injury has occurred. Heat can increase the blood flow to the area, bringing pain relief and reduced muscle and joint stiffness. The new heat wraps give continuous heat for up to eight hours at a time. Early studies show this works well with common wrist problems such as sprains, strains, or carpal tunnel syndrome. Susan Michlovitz, PhD, PT, et al., Continuous Low-Level Heat Wrap Therapy Is Effective For Treating Wrist Pain. In Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. September 2004. Vol. 85. No. 9. Pp. 1409-1416.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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