Ice vs Heat: Sports Injury Treatment
If you’ve ever worked out, run long distances, weight trained, and played sports your have probably experienced muscle soreness and/or injury. Many people deal with the residual pain and/or inflammation by applying ice or heat. The most common question we get at Backs in Action is “Should I apply Ice or Heat?”, so we wanted to put this issue to rest and provide you with some helpful tips!
1) When Should I Use Ice?
- Use on an inflamed area
- Inflammation causes the area around the injury to be red, warm, swollen and/or painful
- Ice dulls the pain of inflammation and reduces swelling by decreasing blood flow to the area
How Long do I Ice an Area?
- Use the ice for 15-20 minutes at a time and then remove the ice for 20-40mins
- Use the RICE Method: This method entails combining Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation for optimal results
- Make sure to put a light cloth over the ice pack as direct application can result in tissue damage
- If there isn’t any improvement in 48hours, come see our Chiropractor or Massage Therapist
2) When to Avoid Ice?
- Do not use ice when you are already shivering
- Do not ice painful tight muscles that may be spastic
- The muscles will contract harder and the ice will aggravate the trigger points
3) When to use Heat?
- Use for minor and/or chronic aches and pains
- Takes the edge off the pain caused by muscle spasms including neck and back pain
- Heat helps to loosen tissues and relax the muscles
- Our Registered Massage Therapist recommends to take a bath after a massage as heat improves circulation and extends the benefits of massage therapy
How Long Should I Use Heat for?
- Use heat therapy for a maximum of 20 minutes at any given time
- If you feel the heat is burning your skin, take it off
- Remember “Warm” is the goal temperature, not boiling hot
4) When Should I Avoid Heat?
- Do not use heat when you are already sweating
- If you have acute inflammation, avoid heat as it can make it worse and can increase swelling
- Typically, avoid heat after an initial fall/injury/motor vehicle accident
How Should I Treat Muscle Injuries?
- Muscle Injuries often involve sudden/severe pain
- This is due to acute inflammation which can lead to swelling
- For example a muscle tear or muscle strain
- For the first few days post injury, ice the muscle to bring down the inflammation
- Switch to heat after 72 hours
Is Ice better than Heat?
- Experiments have shown that the benefits of both are roughly equal 1
- Use the method that makes you feel better!
Stay tunes for our future blog on “Hot/Cold Contrast Baths” and “Espom Salt Water Baths”!