Heat vs. Ice
Treating pain with hot and cold can be extremely effective for a number of different conditions and injuries, and easily affordable. The tricky part is knowing what situations calls for hot, and which calls for cold. Sometimes a single treatment will even include both.
As a general rule of thumb, use ice for acute injuries or pain, along with inflammation and swelling. Use heat for muscle pain or stiffness.
What it does:
Heat promotes muscle relaxation and can increase range of motion. It opens blood vessels to increase blood flow, relaxes muscles and helps alleviate pain.
When to use it:
Heat is a great was to help loosen up tight joints and tight muscles. It is also a good method of pain relief for tension headaches and other chronic conditions. Always wait 48-72 hours before considering heat therapy. When in doubt use ice.
- Treat for no longer than 20 minutes at a time.
- Do not lie on a hot pack to avoid falling asleep and potentially burning yourself.
- Do not use heat if you have no feeling in that affected part of your body.
- NEVER use heat if there is swelling or burning.
- Do not apply heat directly to skin, use a thin towel.
- Do not use heat if you have poor circulation, such as if you have diabetes.
- Wait 1 hour in between heat treatments.
What is does:
Ice calms down damaged tissue and slows down the blood flow to an injury to reduce swelling, inflammation and controls the pain.
When to use it:
Ice should be used right after an injury or activity that aggravates a chronic condition. Ice is good for migraine headaches, bumps, sprains, and strains that may occur with sports, slips and falls or lifting. Cold therapy is also helpful in treating some overuse injuries or chronic pain in athletes. When in doubt use ice.
- Treat for no longer than 20 minutes at a time
- During treatment check skin every 5 minutes to make sure there is no damage such as freezer burn (skin would become reddened or blistered, just as when burnt with heat)
- Do no apply directly to skin, use a thin towel.
- Wait 1 hour in between cold treatments.