How often do you think you pick up a new strain or nagging pain?
It’s nigh on impossible to live your life without picking up niggly injuries that aren’t so serious you immediately think to seek medical help, or so mild that you plain ignore. Soothing the site of pain is the logical thing to do and, unlike many things in life, something you have complete control over.
Also the longer you live on this spinning rock we call home the more susceptible you are to these everyday strains that can get in the way.
When these arise though, what is the best course of action? The two front runners tend to be heat or ice but what to use and when is less clear. Much less.
Do you use both? Not at the same time of course, unless you happen to be this ageing Baseball pro – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gF8rlghyxJU
It’s a question I get asked an awful lot in the clinic, so I thought I’d try and impart my time served wisdom on you and hopefully help ease the pain, and associated headache from proceedings by trying to answer…
Which, When & For What?
First off, I usually recommend that you do not use heat on acute injuries – acute injuries are essentially injuries less than 6 weeks old – as the additional heat can help to increase inflammation and as such will prolong the time the injury takes to heal.
Avoid the temptation to use heat as it is more comfortable than and ice-cold solution, you can actually make an injury worse by applying heat where it’s not needed. For patients who keep introducing heat to an injury that is less than 6 weeks old, this can actually delay the healing process as the body is unable to heal if it is still in an inflammatory state, adding heat can prolong the inflammatory stage.
Ice is your best friend with fresh injuries of this type, it will help to reduce the swelling and will aid to numb the pain whilst simultaneously reducing tissue damage.
For injuries that are older than 6 weeks then the preferred option would be to use heat. The heat increases blood flow to the site of the pain and will work to relax muscles and joints. The heat essentially helps to safely start working towards a greater range of motion which will help with your recovery, should your injury be around a joint.
Apply heat before trying to push your range of motion too far by stretching or by doing a home workout. Don’t be afraid to use both heat and ice during the same ‘session’. You can still use ice therapy after exercise to help stop any bouts of inflammation.
Warm-up, cool down after 🙂
If you suffer from Arthritis then heat will be your friend here, preferably a fully immersive moist heat best found in one’s bathtub. Warm but not too hot will give you the best relief, not only for your joints but your skin too!
Bouts of Gout
The one arthritic condition that ice works more effectively for is gout. When pain and inflammation flare-up in your joints, ice can numb the pain and reduce the swelling to give you greater comfort quickly.
Ice again will be your best option here but you may want to finish with a little heat, especially around your Achilles tendon and around your elbow if pain flares up in these areas.
With all of the above concerns, you can apply your ice and heat treatments in a wide variety of ways and via a number of mediums but the one thing most experts agree on is timing. If you stick to the 5-10 minutes on, 5-10 minutes off rule you’ll see greater benefit with less discomfort.
If you have a specific pain that I haven’t covered above please don’t hesitate to contact me for further advice, I’m always happy to help 🙂
Anyway, I hope that helps clear up the age-old debate and that you guys are keeping safe, I’m still open for anyone who needs some hands-on help.
I hope to see you soon,
Until next time,