1 Jun 16

Ice vs Heat

One of the questions that I’m regularly posed by my clients here at Arrow Physiotherapy is “when do I use ice or heat to treat an injury?”

As ice and heat work differently they each serve a different purpose when it comes to injury management.

Say you’ve twisted your ankle playing Netball or landed awkwardly on your shoulder playing Rugby; in each of these cases using ice is your best option.  Ice will provide almost immediate pain relief but more than that it will reduce swelling and inflammation by constricting blood vessels, thereby preventing blood from accumulating around the injured area.

Ice is ideally used directly after the injury has been sustained in order to have its best results.  Using ice sooner rather than later will also give you a head start in rehabilitating any injury.

Tip: Don’t apply ice directly to the skin, use a thin towel or ice pack.

As you may imagine, heat works directly opposite to ice in that it opens up blood vessels to increase blood flow.  In this manner heat works in the same way as a massage.  For this reason heat would be more suitable for those suffering from stiffness of the lower back or neck, conditions normally suffered by those who spend long hours at a desk.

Many people use heat rubs or heat packs before sport or activity to help ease any feeling of stiffness and prepare their muscles for action.

Tip: Don’t use heat if there is swelling or bruising in the affected area.

If you are unsure whether ice or heat may be appropriate for your particular situation, ask your health professional.

Laurence Pratt

Remedial Massage Therapist

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