When and How to Use Ice & Heat
It is often confusing to patients as to whether they should use ice or heat to get them out of pain. In this blog I will be discussing 5 factors that can help you make the decision.
Ice Ice Baby…An acute injury is an injury that has recently occurred. A good example of an acute injury would include a ligament sprain (such as an ankle sprain) or a muscle strain (such as a hamstring strain). The body starts the inflammatory process almost immediately following an acute injury and ice is meant to keep the inflammatory process under control and manage the pain.
Research suggests that ice should be used no longer than 20 minutes to avoid a frostbite condition and to prevent any superficial nerve damage. Also, allow at least 1 hour before reapplying ice to the same area.
It’s Getting Hot in Here…Heat is best used for chronic conditions and pain. Chronic pain or injury is slow developing and is persistent, long lasting, or constantly recurring over time. Example of chronic pain would include low back or neck pain that has lingered for weeks, months, and in some cases, years. It’s important to remember that chronic pain does not include a sudden onset of pain like a sprain or strain because heat will expedite the inflammation process. Heat is used for chronic conditions to ease pain and relax surrounding musculature/soft tissue in the affected area.
Heat, similar to ice, is best used in 10 to 20-minute increments. Prior to any thermotherapy, it is best to run a spoon under warm water and press against your skin in the area you wish to treat to rule out or confirm a sensitivity problem for burn precautions. Also, inspect your skin before, immediately after, and minutes after.
Neither – Ice and heat are great for temporary relief, but ultimately, the majority of injuries and conditions need adjunct treatment. If ice and/or heat are not getting you out of pain at home, it may be time to look into other options to get you back on track, such as PT. You do not need a referral from your physician, so call and schedule an appointment TODAY!