You are having a pretty good day, and just as you feel that you are checking things off that crazy to-do list, more things just keep adding up. You have been running around like a chicken with your head cut off, and as luck would have it, you sprained your ankle, now there is pain and swelling. You try to ignore it, but there is something that needs to be done to stop the swelling. This is where the great debate of ice versus heat comes into play. Both of them will help reduce pain, but there are certain types of injuries for which each should be used.
The general rule of thumb with applying ice and heat is 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off. Using the RICE method: (Rest, ice, compression, and elevation) is recommended after experiencing a chronic or acute injury.
Doctors are often asked a common question by patients, when should I use ice and when should I use heat when it comes to injuries and pain? Truth is, both heat and ice are effective methods of reducing inflammation and pain from an injury. However, there is often confusion between knowing when and where to use ice and heat. Simply, ice is for injuries and heat is for muscles.
Acute injuries, usually are a result of a specific impact or traumatic event that occurs in one specific area of the body, such as a muscle, bone, or joint. For these injuries, ice is typically used to help with the inflammation and pain. Ice helps calm down any injured or damaged tissue by decreasing swelling, also helping numb the pain. It is important to note, to not use ice for muscle tension and spasms, as it can make each of these worse.
Reasons for ice:
· Acute injuries (muscles, bones, joints)
· Sprains and strains
Chronic injures also called overuse injuries, are caused by overuse of particular part of your body either through sports or exercises. They develop slowly and can last more than six weeks. chronic injuries are lifestyle threatening as they restrict you from participating in many things. Heat is most effective when used on injuries and pain that are a result of muscle tightness. The reason heat is usually avoided at the onset of any acute injuries is because it can actually increase inflammation and swelling, delaying your recovery.
Reasons for heat:
- Chronic injuries
- Chronic tendonitis
- Neck and lower back tightness
If you experience severe, sudden muscle pain after an injury, you will end up using a combination of both ice and heat. Start with ice for the first few days to help decrease the inflammation and then switch to heat to help relieve the soreness.
If you’re still experiencing muscle soreness or pain after a few days, call Orthopaedic Associates of Central Maryland at (410) 644-1880 to request a consultation with one of our physicians.