Ice vs. Heat
It is an unfortunate
truth in leading an active lifestyle; at one point or another you will
most likely suffer an injury of some sort. Hopefully it is small in
nature and you will be back to normal in a short time, but how you go
about handling the injury may be the biggest factor in how quickly you
heal. Again, we must stress that here we are focusing our
attention on minor injuries such as sprained ankles or strained muscles.
A more severe injury, such as muscle or ligament tear will demand the
attention of a medical professional.
Many times people are often confused as to whether to use ice or heat to help an injury heal. Both
have their benefits and uses. Ice reduces swelling in an injured area,
and helps dull the pain in the area as well. Heat, on the other hand,
provides a soothing sensation, increasing blood flow to the area and
helping loosen up tight areas. So which one is best? The answer is that it may be both-just not at the same time.
immediately after an acute injury, the injury should be treated with ice
(and compression if applicable). Normally inflammation follows
immediately after the injury, so icing can help decrease this
inflammation and dull some of the pain that is sure to accompany it. It
is important that for the first few days following an injury that ice,
along with rest, is the main focus of the healing process. Heat draws blood into an area, and during the first few days where swelling is often an issue, will only increase this swelling. So until the swelling subsides, heat packs or pads should be avoided.
After the first few days
are past and swelling is no longer evident, you can introduce heat. By
alternating ice and heat packs you can begin to introduce more blood,
oxygen and nutrients to the injured area to help progress the healing
process. Again we are still using the ice packs to avoid swelling. It’s
also important to start to exercise the area by slowly stretching and
moving the injured area in an effort to avoid immobilization. Remember
not to push to the point of pain as you may reinjure yourself. While you
still may experience tenderness or slight pain for weeks after and
injury, the need for constant attention to the area is not warranted.
You can still use ice or heating packs if you want to help with the
So remember-ice first
and foremost and save the heat for a few days later at least. It might
feel better to use a heating pack, but your body and the injury will
thank you for the cold!