Ice and Heat therapy are two of the most common non-invasive treatments applied for musculoskeletal injuries. Both applications are great natural remedies that most individuals can use easily and inexpensively for any injury. However, there often seems to be some confusion when deciding which one to use, so here are a few principals when using ice or heat in dealing with an injury.
The use of either heat or ice is dependent on the type of injury and the amount of time you start treatment after injury has occurred. For example, the application of ice is commonly used in the first 24-48 hours after an injury occurs such as an ankle sprain, to reduce the swelling and minimise inflammation. Ice is a vaso-constrictor (it causes the blood vessels to narrow) and it limits internal bleeding at the injury site. It also works as a great analgesic acting to numb the pain. Ice treatments are generally recommended for 10-20 minute applications on, with 40 minutes rest.
Heat is commonly used for chronic conditions such as joint stiffness, pain or muscle spasms. Heat Therapy consists of applying warmth to the skin via products such as a microwavable wheat bag, a moist, warm towel or a hot water bottle. Heat is a vasodilator (it opens up blood vessels), thus supplying greater blood flow that carries oxygen and nutrients to joints and muscles. This effectively reduces joint pain, and alleviates sore muscles, ligaments and tendons. The warmth is also good at decreasing muscle spasms and increasing range of motion. Never use heat immediately after experiencing an injury, as this will likely do more harm than good. Your body is already naturally increasing blood flow to the area and so does not need further assistance from a heat pack.
It is also very important to always cover the ice or heat pack with a small towel or cloth so that it does not directly touch the skin, as this could result in burning of your skin.
While using ice and heat packs on an injured area can reduce pain and enhance the healing process, having your injury examined and diagnosed correctly by one of our chiropractors will ensure that the pain subsides and heals in due time. If you’re unsure whether to use an icepack or a heat pack on your injury, simply contact us on 02 8095 0393