Here is some basic information in regards to using heat or ice for your injury or pain.
As a general rule of thumb, use ice for acute injuries. An acute injury involves tissue damage and inflammation. The initial inflammatory stage of an injury lasts approximately 3-5 days. Ice helps to reduce blood flow to the area which can help reduce swelling and pain during this time.
Certain conditions that may benefit more from ICE include:
- Ankle Sprains
- Knee sprains
- Muscle/tendon injuries (ie: rotator cuff tear)
- Red, hot swollen body part
Different forms of ice include ice packs, coolant spray, ice massage.
Ice application should be shorter in duration (ie: 15 minutes) due to the risk of skin irritation or tissue damage. You should also have a barrier between your skin and the ice (ex: a towel or pillowcase).
As a general rule of thumb use heat for muscle pain and stiffness and chronic pain. Heat helps to increase blood flow and circulation to the area and warm up tissue, thereby reducing stiffness/tension and pain. Applying heat generally creates a soothing effect.
Certain conditions that may benefit more from HEAT include:
- Low back pain, neck pain
- Joint and muscle stiffness
- Muscle soreness/pain
- Old/recurring injuries
- Chronic pain
Heat can be left on longer, however ensure that the hot pack is at an appropriate temperature to avoid skin irritation or damage (ie: blisters/burns).
Some conditions or injuries may benefit from a combination of both heat and cold therapy as well and with certain conditions there may be contraindications to heat or ice.
If you are unsure about which would be more beneficial for you, don’t hesitate to ask your health care professional to ensure you are getting the most effective treatment.
~ Jacquie, Physiotherapist