Should I Use Ice or Heat?

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”!

Related posts: Running InjuriesPlantar Fasciitis, Shin Splints

To book an appointment with our Chiropractor or  Massage Therapist, call 604-876-9977.