Drs. Oz & Roizen: Contrast therapy helpful for aches and sprains

I sprained my ankle and put an ice pack on it right away. Then my massage therapist said to put heat on it later so it wouldn’t get stiff. I thought that would just inflame it. Which is it, heat or ice, that helps a sprain heal? — Lester B., Garden City, New York

 

Cold and heat are both helpful, when used at the right time and correctly. We’ve talked about R.I.C.E. therapy before; it stands for “Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.” That’s usually your first line of defense following an injury like an ankle sprain. But after your body’s initial inflammatory response to the injury, you can use what is called “contrast therapy.” That’s a pattern of applying hot and cold— usually 10 minutes of cold followed by 10 minutes of heat, then take a break for 30 minutes, at least. The combination allows you to get the anti-inflammatory benefits of cold and the muscle-relaxing, blood-flowing boost from heat. Contrast therapy also may be recommended by your doctor or surgeon when dealing with a more serious injury or surgery.

What does cold do? Cold is a vasoconstrictor, which means it restricts blood flow and can have a numbing effect on the nerves. Ahhh! Using cryotherapy (either with an ice pack, a bag of cubes or immersing your affected area in an icy bath) also reduces inflammation and can help you avoid the need for pain medications. When used by itself (no heat), apply cold for no more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time; longer may, ironically, trigger an inflammatory response as your body tries to warm up the area.

And heat? Heat is a vasodilator, which means that it dilates blood vessels. That allows nutrient-rich blood to flow around a joint or damaged muscle and “loosen up” the injured tissue. Use it after the swelling has gone down.

Ice and heat is a great combo for easing a strained ankle or soothing sore joints and tissue. People have been jumping from steam baths and saunas into cold lakes and rivers for thousands of years. You’re just updating the practice.

Bonus: Compression— with an elastic bandage, for example, is helpful in reducing swelling and can be used in conjunction with ice.

With all the gun violence we see today, can’t something be done to reduce it in the name of public health while preserving Second Amendment rights? — Alva D., Lexington, Kentucky

There is a great deal that can be done (like keeping your guns and ammunition under lock and key), but even though almost every gun owner in the U.S. supports tighter gun laws, there is a reluctance among much-lobbied legislators to do much, even after Las Vegas. Did you know you can still buy a gun if you’re on the Fed’s Terrorist Watch list? Ridiculous. And according to a new study, as many as 3 million Americans are walking around every day with a loaded handgun (80 percent have a concealed-carry permit). Scary! So, what to do?

One regulation that seems to be very effective in reducing gun violence, and shouldn’t bother anyone, is to institute waiting periods in every state. So far, they’re mandated in 43 states.

When they’re not, well … a recent study revealed that gun-related deaths and injuries in neighboring California spiked by 70 percent in the two weeks following gun shows in Nevada. When California (with strict gun laws) held gun shows, there was no spike afterward. And researchers at Harvard Business School found that waiting periods of just a couple of days were associated with a 17 percent decrease in gun homicides.

Right now, more than 33,000 Americans are killed every year by guns. According to the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention, having waiting periods for gun purchases saves about 1,700 lives every year. Just think how many lives strict background checks and tighter automatic weapon, magazine and ammunition regulations could save without impinging on anyone’s rights.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of theWellnessInstitute at the Cleveland Clinic.

 

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