One of the most common questions that is asked in the clinic is, “Should I put ice or heat on the injured area?” While there are many conflicting reports, at our clinic we recommend a strict approach to using this modality. Both are very useful, but applying the right one will have a major impact in proper recovery and pain management. Let’s dive a little deeper into when and how to use ice and heat!
Ice is applied exclusively to help decrease swelling/inflammation, decrease blood flow, reduce muscle spasms and alleviate bruising and pain.
When to Ice:
- Acute (new) injuries that have occurred within the last 24-72 hours
- Re-aggravation of an old injury
- Post activity when dealing with a chronic condition
How to Ice:
- Only use during times of inactivity
- 10 minutes on, 20-30 minutes off (until tissue temperature returns to normal)
- Apply the ice pack directly to the area of pain but do NOT have direct contact with skin (use a paper towel or towel)
HeadsUp! Icing the area of pain may not feel relaxing and soothing like heat does, but it is what your body needs!
Heat is most commonly used when treating repetitive strain or chronic injuries and it will help increase blood flow, relax muscles, decrease pain and promote healing.
When to Heat?
- Dealing with repetitive strain or chronic injuries
- Arthritic pain
- Tight muscles
How to Heat?
- Can be applied before an activity, before bed, before getting out of bed or after/during work
- Apply for 15-20 minutes on, 20-30 minutes off (until tissue temperature is back to normal)
- Apply directly on the affected area
These are great general recommendations as to what to do at home after a new injury or when dealing with a chronic condition. However, when in doubt, seek out professional help to help build out a plan to manage the issue.