Today I want to talk about when to put ice or heat !!!! This is a topic that comes up everyday in my clinic. Some people swear by heat and others by ice but what to put and when?
The basic principal to remember is that for acute injuries everywhere on the body ICE should be applied. Patients always know to put ice on a knee or a twisted ankle but when it comes to the back or neck for some reason people think of heat. I like to explain to patients that the principal is the same whether it is an ankle or the back. When you just injured yourself your body will have an immediate reaction which is called inflammation. The goal right away is to try and reduce that inflammation. Ice is the best natural anti-inflammatory you can find and the best thing is that it is cheap! You can use a bag of frozen peas and apply it for no more then 15 minutes or so at a time. You do not want to freeze the area because then your body will react oppositely and send more blood to the area and the inflammation will then increase. So the principal is 10-15 minutes on and 10-15 minutes off. Ice is definitely the best thing to reduce blood flow, swelling and PAIN to an injured area.
Heat can be applied to chronic injuries. You can use moist heat for 15-20 minutes. Some times a simple shower can help. Heat increases blood flow to the area and helps relaxing tight muscles or muscle spasms. Athletes will sometimes apply heat to a chronic injury prior to exercising or athletic event to relax their tight muscles.
Ice is definitely my best friend I always tell my patient when in doubt put ICE. You will at least reduce the swelling and start the healing process. So always keep ice in your freezer you never know when you will need it.
Until next time