Home Treatments

You can do lots to help yourself get well faster. The first component is realizing that in order to get and stay as healthy as you can be, you need to participate in your own rehabilitation and maintenance. I have patients who (in reality) want to pay me to make their health problem - my problem. They are simply unwilling to change their behaviors even when I clearly explain to them that these behaviors are the very reason they have developed the health problem they have! So, please, follow my home recommendations.

Ice Packs (cryotherapy)

In the initial stages of an injury, your body wants to swell. Although this process of inflammation does have some benefits, if allowed to go unchecked it can actually worsen many conditions. It has been said that if an injury were for example to stretch a ligament 1 centimeter, unchecked swelling could stretch it to 5 centimeters! So as a general rule we treat acute (new) injuries with 20 minutes of cryotherapy every 2 hours, or through the 4 stages of 1. cold 2. burn 3. ache 4. numb (CBAN). If you get to numb before the 20 minutes elapses discontinue until the next session. A word of caution here, use common sense, do the best you can but let pain moderate your behavior, if it hurts too much, ease off. If you choose to use ice packs, its best to wrap a damp towel around the ice pack to prevent burning of the skin. We generally use cryotherapy for about the 24 to 36 hours post injury.

Hot and Cold Contrast Therapy

Once the initial swelling has stopped we move on to contrast therapy. Contrast therapy creates a tissue pumping action that helps to wash out the remaining swelling and provide increased circulation that accelerates the rehabilitation process. Alternating heat and cold. I recommend either a bucket of hot water or a microwave with a towel used as a wet compress. If you microwave a wet towel in a dish for a minute or two it'll come out about right. Caution! don't scald your patient, you should be comfortable with the amount of heat (no tongs or rubber gloves!). Ice bags can range from a bag of frozen peas to a zip-lock bag with a little water and some ice. Commercial heating pads do not generally work nearly as effectively. The heat vasodilates the blood vessels and brings fresh oxygenated nutrient rich blood to the area. The cold vasoconstricts the blood vessels and further washes out edema and nutrient emptied blood. Use 3 minutes of heat and then 1 minute of cold alternating back and forth. Sessions last 30-45 minutes. You could do as many as three sessions a day, morning, noon and night. You can do it for longer than 30-45 minutes, it won't hurt you, but you'll get diminishing returns. (There is only so fast a body can heal).

Moist NOT DRY Heat Applications

There comes a time when heat application is appropriate. I haven't hesitated in giving out these initial home therapies but I am hesitant to recommend you use this one because if you apply it at the wrong time - (unlike these two previous recs) it can make conditions worse. It can feel great when its on only to induce a swelling pain hours later you might never forget! When there is any question in your mind, don't use heat. Moist heat is typically for chronic conditions or later stage recoveries, when we want to increase blood (and oxygen) to an area. I rarely ever use dry-heat heating pads.


There are different types of liniments. Ones that cool the affected area, and as you might imagine these are used in the acute stages of an injury. They typically contain an evaporant that cools the skin and helps decrease tissue temperature, thereby decreasing inflammation. Others that warm the area by causing a mild skin irritation, in order to increase blood flow to an area and increase circulation to oxygenate tissues. Most contain pain relieving analgesics. Another type of liniment is gaining popularity. These liniments are called "transdermals" meaning that they penetrate the skin and bring medicines like aspirin or ibuprophin in with them. These might be preferred if a person (or animal's) gastrointestinal tract would be irritated by oral administration. In addition, these transdermals can sometimes get higher concentrations of a medicine into a joint than oral administrations. Remember, there isn't any traffic director in your stomach focusing a medication to a certain area. Its evenly distributed throughout the whole body. We have a variety of good ones available at the office and can advise you as to the most appropriate for your condition.