Choosing the Right Treatment: Ice Vs. Heat
You’re working out like mad trying to lose those holiday pounds and all of your muscles are aching. Soaking for hours in a warm bath sounds great, but is that the right thing to do?
You were out for a walk, stepped in a hole, and twisted your ankle and now it’s bruised and swollen. Do you use ice or put a heating pad on it?
This is one of the most common questions I receive. It’s also one of the more common things that people do incorrectly. It does make sense…heat on something for a long time makes it feel good. It’s true that ice is not very comfortable when you use it for a while. So heat should be better, right?
Acute injuries, and even some chronic ones, respond better to ice. Ice serves as a natural anti-inflammatory and functions to constrict the blood vessels, thereby reducing the blood flow to the injured area. Inflammatory factors are carried in the blood. Having less of these present minimizes the swelling, bruising, and pain associated with inflammation. The sooner you apply an ice pack to a sprain or strain, the sooner it can do its job reducing pain and swelling. For chronic problems such as low back pain or muscle spasms, ice whenever the symptoms start up.
You do need to take some precautions with ice, though. Never put ice directly on the injury…be sure to cover in a towel. Keep ice on for no more that 20 minutes and then wait at least 40 minutes before you use it again. Ice becomes less effective when you keep it on for more than 20 minutes and you run the risk of damaging soft tissue.
Heat does have its place, also. Heat increases blood flow and restore movement to injured tissue. Heat can also help pain and stiffness in joints, such as the resulting pain from osteoarthritis. Heat shouldn’t be used on a new injury, however, since the increase in blood flow will cause an increase in swelling and pain and can cause more harm than good. Take a break after 20 to 30 minutes when you’re applying heat.
If you have any conditions that cause your hands and feet to be numb, such as diabetes,. You should check the heat of the pad with an area that has full sensation, such as your elbow. You also need to make sure that you only apply cold for the recommended period of time and stop if you notice any change in color to the area.
Applying the RICE principle is a great way to treat yourself: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. If it’s not feeling better then make sure you call your local physician.
Source by Dr Andrew Schneider