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Hot Fomentation vs Icing

Written by
Dr. Vikram S Bharadwaj
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Dec 19, 2018   -  1 min read


Fomentation is the application of hot or cold packs to the site of internal injury to ease body pains. They are most effective when used in back pain, knee pain, and eye irritation.

Hot Fomentation vs Icing


Icing should be done when you injure yourself during day-to-day activities like walking, running, etc. There will be swelling after 24 hours but icing should be done for under five minutes every one and a half hours, for the first five days. Some injuries may respond to icing alone and some others will respond to a mix of icing for two to three minutes followed by hot fomentation for the same amount of time. If the injury is too old/chronic, it is better to start with icing.

This can be done with ice cubes wrapped in a cloth or ice packs available commercially. Always use a crepe bandage if the injury is in the wrist or elbow, anklet if it is the ankle, post icing.

Hot Fomentation

Hot fomentation should be done when the injury/pain is over a large area like lower back or knee. Lower back ache responds to hot fomentation faster than icing. This has to be done with a rubber hot bag available commercially or else hot packs which can be kept in the oven for reheat. The commercially available electric bag will not provide enough heat to penetrate.

For knee and shoulder pain, as in osteoarthritis of the knee or frozen shoulder, hot water bag is only needed. Hot fomentation needs to be done only for 10 minutes if the patient is nondiabetic and seven minutes if the patient is diabetic. It should be lukewarm and not hot. Always apply a local pain relief ointment after fomentation. Always use a lumbosacral belt if the part is lower back, and a knee brace if it is an OA knee.


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Last reviewed at:
19 Dec 2018  -  1 min read


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