It’s funny how when I start pondering newsletter topics people walk in the office and ask a question that is just perfect for the newsletter. Such was the case with this little gem. I’ve been asked about this 3x in the past 2 weeks and am therefore taking it as a sign this is a good topic. We hope it helps.
WHAT IT DOES?
- COLD – Ice calms down damaged tissue and slows down the blood flow to an injury; used to reduce swelling, inflammation and controls pain.
- HEAT – Heat promotes muscle relaxation and can increase range of motion. It opens blood vessels to increase blood flow, relaxes muscles and helps alleviate pain. Heat is a great way to help loosen up tight joints and tight muscles; reduces stiffness
WHEN DO YOU USE?
- COLD – Immediately after an injury or exercise to reduce pain and swelling; ice is used in the first 24-72 hours of an injury.
- HEAT – 72 hours after an injury, when the swelling has gone down.
HOW TO APPLY?
- COLD – You can apply an ice pack, a bag of frozen peas or ice blocks (all of these options should be wrapped in a moist towel before applying). Do not apply ice directly to skin, use a thin towel. Treat between 10-15 minutes per session. 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 burned with heat). Wait 1 hour in between cold treatments. You could also fill a bucket with water and ice cubes, and have an ‘ice bath’ for a hand or a foot injury.
- HEAT – You can use a heating pad, heat bag, (such as wheat bag) or hot water bottle applied to the sore area. 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. NEVER use heat if there is swelling or bruising. Do not apply heat directly to skin, use a thin towel.
BEST USED FOR:
- COLD – 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.
- HEAT – Heat promotes muscle relaxation and can increase range of motion. It opens blood vessels to increase blood flow, relaxes muscles and helps alleviate pain. Heat is a great way 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. When in doubt use ice.
- Icing before exercise can result in decreased muscle strength, power, and fine motor control because ice reduces the nerve’s conduction velocity.
- Heating an acute injury may increase inflammation making symptoms worse and delaying the healing process.
ACE newsletter 2017; Cleveland Clinic 2015