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Should I Ice or Heat my Injury for Relief?

If there’s one thing that we’re familiar with, it’s knowing how to handle and manage injuries and pain. We know that sometimes, you just need quick and immediate relief – whether it’s from a fresh injury or a long-term issue. Traditional approaches to treating injuries include icing and heating, which are still both very useful. But cold and heat therapy play two different roles in treatment. Continue reading to find out more about when to heat or ice your injury.

When should I ice my injury?

Cold therapy or icing is ideal for “new” injuries. By “new,” we are referring to an injury that’s less than 6 weeks old. It can also work wonders on injuries that occurred within the last 48 hours. So if you’re suffering from an acute injury, like a pulled muscle, bursitis, a sprain or tendinitis, consider putting ice on it. Ice can also help alleviate the “throbbing” types of headaches.

What does ice do to the body?

Cold packs reduce blood flow and restrict chemical reactions in the area by constricting blood vessels. The goal is to reduce swelling, inflammation and pain.

The other benefit of icing an injury is that it can numb the area, bringing on much-needed relief.

How do I ice an injury properly? 

Begin by taking an ice pack (or even a bag of frozen peas if you need to be crafty) and wrap it in a thin or light towel. We don’t recommend putting the pack directly on the injury, as a precaution to protect your skin.

Apply the ice pack on the injured or affected area on and off throughout the day for about 20 minutes each time. Move the ice pack around the area during the 20-minutes. Wait a few or a couple hours being reapplying.

When should I heat my injury?

Heat therapy generally works best for chronic injuries, including arthritis pain and chronic back pain, and pain that lingers after sprains and other injuries. The important point to note is to not use it during the inflammation stage, as it can cause added inflammation and hinder the recovery process. And, if you have a headache that is triggered by muscle spasms, heat therapy may bring you relief as well.

What does heat do to the body?

Heat essentially works in the opposite manner as cold therapy. It relaxes the joints and muscles and provides relief for both stiffness and spasms by expanding the blood vessels. This allows for greater blood flow and improved nutrient and oxygen delivery to the injured area.

How do I heat an injury properly?

As with cold therapy, protect your skin by using a light towel between yourself and the heating pad or heating bottle. You can also dampen a towel with warm water and use that instead. Some have also found relief with warm steamy baths.

Once again, don’t exceed the 20-minute mark and don’t reapply the heat until the spot has had a chance to completely cool.

For more help in relieving your acute or chronic pain, you can visit our chiropractic clinic in Spokane Valley. In the meantime, using cold and heat therapy is an effective way to find relief for your symptoms. Remember, cold is best for new or acute injuries, and heat is best for chronic ones!

Call Summit Chiropractic and Sports Institute at (509) 922-1909 for more information!