ICE or HEAT – That is the Question

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When you have an injury or pain, an ice or heat pack is a good therapy modality to try, but which one should you use in your situation?

ICE – Acute or New Injuries

  • Acute injuries most often cause an inflammatory process. Signs of inflammation are redness, warmth, swelling and pain. Ice can help control swelling by constricting or closing blood vessels to draw fluid from inflammation away from the injured area.
  • After exercise to relieve soreness and excessive induced pain.

HEAT – Chronic Pain Lasting More Than a Few Months

  • Heat can bring blood and nutrients to the area via blood vessel dilation.
  • Acute whiplash injuries common after car accidents can also benefit from heat to relax the tense muscles.
  • Before exercise to warm up the body or an area of the body.

Follow these parameters with temperature modalities:

  • Protect your skin with a layer of cloth between the ice or heat pack and your skin.
  • Do a skin check every few minutes to make sure you don’t give yourself an ice or heat burn.
  • Be cautious around open wounds and burns.
  • Use ice or heat packs for 10-20 minutes at a time with at least 30 minutes in between sessions. It is ok to use ice or heat intermittently throughout the day.

These are general recommendations, and you may feel one works better for you than the other. So go for it! Ice and heat packs won’t fix your problem, but they can help the healing process and offer natural pain relief.

By Dr. Laurel Mines

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