When Should You Use Hot Or Cold Therapy For Bicycle-Related Injuries


Getting a bicycle injury, even if it’s just minor, is not fun.

Some of your friends or family may advise you to put something ice on it, while others think you should put a hot or warm compress.

So which is better? Which one is the right choice?

First, let’s get the facts straight. No amount of cold or hot compress can automatically repair a torn tendon or a sprained ankle. What a hot or cold compress can do for you is to alleviate pain and/or help minor injuries to heal faster. However, that’s very important in its own way.

According to Dr. Sonu Ahluwalia, a chief orthopedic surgeon – if you feel better, you will believe that you are getting better. And, when you believe you are getting better, you will actually heal faster. It’s like making placebo effect work for you, instead of against you. So when should you reach for a cold pack or a warm towel?

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The Effects of Heat And Cold On Your Body

Before you grab the nearest cold pack or hot towel, you should first learn the effects of the two temperatures on your body. This way, you will be able to adapt your application method depending on the situation.

* Chilling Out – a cold compress is able to constrict the blood vessels in the skin, and the tissues underneath it. Also, any chemical reaction within the area slows down to a crawl. This means that a cold compress can help in reducing inflammation and swelling.

* Heating Up – a hot compress is the polar opposite. Heat will open up the blood vessels and increase the blood flow to the area. Increased blood flow means that more nutrients can be delivered to the heated area, which then increases the speed of the healing process.

In some ways, the heat can also ease the pain by altering the messages that are sent by the nerve endings to your brain. Now that we have covered that, let’s discuss how and when to apply cold or heat therapy.

Cold Therapy

Before you can apply a cold compress, you will need to have the tools. For cold compress, you have the choice of crushed ice in a bag or even a frozen vegetable. However, I highly suggest that you get a Gel Pack. It’s a lot more effective, and it doesn’t cause a mess.

The best time to apply cold therapy is within the first or second day of the injury. During this time, your injury is still going through an inflammatory process. Using cold therapy can greatly reduce the inflammation and ease the pain. Also, keep in mind that heat therapy can worsen an inflamed injury.

When you touch an injury and you feel there is increased temperature, then a cold therapy can also help. The heat may be a symptom produced by an infection. Cold therapy can help by slowing down the infection process.

You can also use cold therapy, even if you are not injured. For example, after a strenuous ride, you can use cold therapy on the major muscles so you can prevent soreness that may come later on.

Heat Therapy

To apply heat therapy, you can use a towel soaked in hot or warm water. However, I suggest that you get an Electric Heat Pad or a Microwaveable Heat Pack because they are easier to use.

The best time to use heat therapy is after the inflammation has subsided. This usually happens 2 days after the injury. However, there is no specific timetable here. This is because it’s not easy to predict when an inflammation dies down.

Bottom Line

When to use hot or cold therapy largely depends on the inflammation in the injury site. What you don’t want is to apply heat therapy to an injury that is inflamed as it can only make things worse.

A good rule of thumb to follow is – right after the injury, apply cold therapy. Continue to do this up to 2 days or more. If the effectiveness of cold therapy fades, then you can switch to heat therapy.