Both Heat and Ice have a role to play in the management of pain relief, however they have different indications for use. So when should you use them?
Ice is most effectively used in the initial management of soft tissue injuries. Many people would have heard of the R.I.C.E (or R.I.C.E) regime. This stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Ice, along with rest, compression and elevation is used to help decrease blood flow to the affected area. With a decreased blood flow, swelling is decreased, reducing the effects of secondary damage and promoting a better quality and faster recovery. So for any acute injury, ice is indicated for use within the first 72 hours, to help control the swelling.
Heat is effectively used to help decrease the intensity of muscle spasm and tightness, generally associated with chronic problems. The application of a heat pack can improve blood flow and muscle flexibility, decreasing tension and leading to a decrease in pain levels. Heat would not be indicated for use within the first 72 hours of an injury. After this initial stage, heat may be indicated.
So in conclusion, if it?s a new injury that has occurred in the past 3 days, use ice. Apply for 15-20 minutes every hour, as regularly as possible.
If the injury is more long term and generally has some associated stiffness or muscle spasm, apply a heat pack to the area to promote muscle relaxation and pain relief.
If you have any concerns or are unsure of which to use, contact our us at Caulfield Natural Health Clinic.