To use ice or heat, that is the question
You’ve walked all day at work and your knee is swollen. What would help best, ice or heat?
What about if you play basketball and your muscles are sore and tight? Ice or heat?
These are dominant questions amongst patients, athletes, and the community at large. How do you make sure you are nursing yourself back to health appropriately?
Here are a few thoughts to guide your decision making:
At the onset of injury, the body begins a cycle of repair called the inflammation process. This process has to happen in order for the body to heal completely. However, if this inflammation stage is prolonged the healing process can be hindered. It is important to ensure that only ice is applied to acute injuries as decreases the swelling and aids in limiting the bodies inflammatory response. It is also important to note that the reduction in swelling around an injury can be closely connected to the reduction of pain. Limit the use of your cold pack to 15- 20 min and always wait at least 45 minutes before reapplying.
Heat is meant to relax musculature. Once initial swelling has subsided heat can be applied to relax tight muscles to encourage the healing process further and decrease overall stiffness. In addition, heat can be used to decrease muscle pain due to stress and over activity. Moist heat is more advantageous than dry heat but is often not as readily available. Make sure to limit your exposure to 15 to 20 minutes. Burns are possible from electric heating pads.
While exercising is vital to overall health, it is imperative the acute injuries are handled appropriately to further encourage the healing process. Don’t hesitate to call us with any questions you may have regarding heat and ice application.
We are here for you! (205) 510-7477
Blog Post Contributors: Brittany Hogan, LPTA and Jeff Jones, MSPT, MAEd