Today we will be talking about whether an injury is in need of ice or heat. This is a all to common question we hear at our office and there are some simple guidelines that should steer you in the right direction. First lets cover the individual benefits of both therapies starting with ice. Ice is wonderful in the acute stage of an injury as it reduces your metabolic rate, inflammation, circulation, muscle spasms and pain. These are all very helpful when you are trying to prevent micro-traumas and especially when you want to keep the joint from swelling excessively. During the acute phase of treatment we simply want to limit the damage being done to the area which ice is great at. The negative aspect of ice is that since it is slowing everything down it is not allowing the healing process to occur at its normal rate either.
Next lets talk about heat therapy. Heat has just as many benefits as ice but they need to be utilized at different times. Heat is going to dilate the blood vessel allowing more oxygen and nutrients into the area. This is wonderful as it helps the body heal faster while also offering pain relief as it will loosen up tight muscles and stiff joints.
In conclusion we want to use ice in order to slow down damaging processes happening to the affected area and we want to use heat in order to increase healing at the effected area and both need to be used at the appropriate time. During the acute phase of the injury or anytime there is swelling in the area we want to use ice and then once we have the swelling under control and we are ready to heal the area we want to start applying heat.
Be careful not to utilize either for to long in a single treatment as you can damage the tissue by freezing or burning it. Reference a healthcare professional if you have questions on what is the right amount of time you should be utilizing either ice or heat. In addition when we ice to long the blood vessels will start to dilate again and bring in increased blood flow in order to warm the area back up and increase swelling having an opposite effect of what is the goal of the therapy.