Which to Use When: Ice or Heat?

Knee pain after running? Wake up with a backache? Twist an ankle?

When aches, pain, strains or swelling take place due to an injury or chronic condition, what is the best course of action: ice or heat? Many people automatically assume heat will ease their discomfort. Think again!

Ice and heat have opposite effects when dealing with inflammation and pain. Both are useful when applied at the correct stage of an injury. Ice constricts blood vessels and decreases blood flow to an injured area, therefore reducing inflammation. It also numbs pain. Heat increases local blood circulation and relaxes tight muscles. When is it appropriate to use each?

The Acute Injury Stage:

Immediately after an injury occurs, inflammation and swelling takes place due to damaged soft tissues and broken blood vessels which leak blood into the affected area. This is considered the acute stage of an injury and lasts about 48 to 72 hours. Pain, stiffness, bruising and tissue tenderness are symptoms of the acute stage. Ice should always be used immediately following an injury because it constricts blood vessels, which will lessen swelling, as well as numb pain and control bleeding. Apply ice no more than 20 minutes at a time. Always protect skin from tissue damage by using a cover over the ice pack. Allow the skin to return to normal temperature before reapplying ice. Heat should not be used during the acute stage. It will increase blood leakage, which increases swelling and possibly pain. Most professionals agree that icing an acute injury will facilitate healing. Applying heat may actually slow healing during the first 72 hours after an injury takes place.

The Chronic Injury Stage:

This is normally the point at which inflammation decreases, approximately 72 hours after the injury. Pain and stiffness may still be present. At this point, both ice and heat can be used to assist in healing. Use ice to control pain and to help with inflammation that might occur after working the injured area, such as a sore knee after running. Use heat to relieve muscle tightness or joint stiffness. Heat is also helpful before a workout to increase blood flow to the injury and warm up the affected area. When applying heat, use moist warmth. Never use a heating device that is too hot nor sleep on a heating pad, which may result in burns. Apply heat only for 20-minute intervals, using the same general guidelines as ice.

An Easy Guide for Ice and Heat:

When to Use Ice:

During Acute Stage (48 to 72 hours immediately after an injury)

  • To decrease swelling and inflammation

  • To numb pain

  • To decrease muscle spasms

  • To treat an acute burn

During Chronic Stage (after inflammation subsides, usually 4 or 5 days after injury)

  • To manage pain and possible swelling

  • After an activity or workout involving an overuse injury to decrease pain and swelling

  • To treat joint swelling due to inflammatory arthritis

When to Use Heat:

During Chronic Stage (after inflammation subsides, usually 4 or 5 days after injury)

  • To warm up stiff joints and aid in joint mobility

  • To decrease chronic muscle spasms

  • To aid in stretching tight muscles

  • Before an activity or workout involving an overuse injury to warm up the affected area

Disclaimer: This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical treatment or consultation. Always consult with your physician in the event of a serious injury.

About The Author

Louise Roach is the editor of on-line health and fitness newsletter, NewsFlash*SnowPack. She has been instrumental in the development of SnowPack, a patented cold therapy that exhibits the same qualities as ice. Her injury prevention and treatment articles have been published on health and fitness websites. For more information visit: http://www.snowpackusa.com. Visit our free health newsletter at: http://home.netcom.com/~newsflash/

[email protected]om.com

In The News:

LEN ROBBINS: Wear a mask – the alternative sucks  Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

How To Lower Cholesterol Without Prescription Drugs

Don't accept that prescription just yet. In most cases it's... Read More

What is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a non-toxic system of medicine used to treat... Read More

Inflammatory Arthritis: Alternative Treatments

There are two main types of arthritis: inflammatory arthritis and... Read More

Aromatherapy ? Part III: Esoteric & Spiritual applications

The Way Essential Oils Effect the Etheric Body or Psycho-spiritual... Read More

Tai Chi Breathing Reduces Residual Air in Ineffective Retention Space

Breathing is the source of life: if breathing stops, do... Read More

What Is Reflexology?

For the Reflexologist, the feet are a microcosm of the... Read More

Portrait of a Medical Intuitive

I am a Medical Intuitive in the San Francisco Bay... Read More

Hoshin Roshi Ryu

Hoshin Roshi Ryu is a scientific system for achieving an... Read More

Some Smells Cause Headache

Did you know that some smells cause headache?Its true, the... Read More

Holistic Is Not A Four-Lettered Word

If you're anything like me, then you've got a certain... Read More

Alternative Fibromyalgia Therapies

Fibromyalgia is a mysterious disease that is effecting more and... Read More

Holistic Health

Holistic Health involves natural treatment options like holistic health nutrition,... Read More

Organic Juices for Constipation

Organic fresh made juices have cleansing and laxative action, which... Read More

Herbs and Essential Oils ? Powerful Medicine

We can find many beneficial uses for natural herbs and... Read More

Natural Remedy for Bronchitis

Bronchitis is a condition defined as the inflammation of the... Read More

Making Your Lungs Work Better With Water

All of us know when our lungs aren't quite working... Read More

Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine used for over... Read More

The Secret Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) has been used for thousands of... Read More

Eucalyptus: The Way to Smoother Breathing

The eucalyptus is a popular Australian remedy that was first... Read More

The Chevreul Pendulum - A Tool for Accessing Your Subconscious About Your Pain

The Chevreul pendulum is a simple device for communicating with... Read More

Exploring the Mystery of Aromatherapy Through Biotechnology

Aromatherapy originated in Ancient Egypt. About a hundred years ago,... Read More

Eating Healthy Myths Destroyed

All Refined Carbohydrates are Hazardous to Your Health. The average... Read More

Natural Pain Management

Life in today's hectic society is going more and more... Read More

Eating Junk Food -- The Hidden Price

You probably are very familiar with the benefits you get... Read More

Kyolic Clears Constipation and Strengthens Your Colon

Garlic is another wonder herb. It has action in all... Read More