Good Health Blog

Ice it or heat it?

- May 10, 2013

Everyone suffers from aches and pains. Some aches are from overloading muscles and joints, some are from over use and some are from just growing older. After an injury is is important to recognize that pain is an indicator of damage and needs to be managed to get you back up and into action!

When do we warm our bodies up or cool them down?

Knowing the difference can be of great benefit … and not knowing can cause potential harm.

The kind of injury is key to understanding whether heat or cold is better. For a recent injury – one that happened within seconds, minutes or a couple of hours – ice is much better.

Ice immediately decreases the swelling that an injury causes and makes the risks of bruising lessen because icing slows down the flow of blood. Icing also provides instant relief from pain because it numbs the area.

It is recommended to only apply ice for 10 minutes every hour..

Not over-icing is important. The temptation to over-ice is there because it provides such an instant relief for pain. It’s easy to forget that an arm has been iced for 45 minutes to an hour, something that is very risky for human tissue.

Then heat: Start using heat after pain and swelling have decreased, usually two to three days after the injury. Heat relaxes tightened and sore muscles and reduces pain. Heat is usually better than cold for chronic pain — such as from arthritis — or for muscle relaxation.

Apply heat to the injured areas for 20 minutes up to three times a day. Traditional methods include using a heat lamp, hot water bottle, warm compress or taking a warm bath or hot shower.