I think we all have asked ourselves that question when faced with an injury right? So let’s take a look at this for the next time we are wondering what should we do 😉
When to Use Ice
“Very generally, for acute injuries within the first 48-72 hours, we recommend ice,” said Dr. Dixit. “Ice can help with swelling in these situations.” It’s important to limit swelling when possible, because in addition to limiting mobility it can cause a lot of pain and general discomfort. “Ice tends to constrict blood vessels thus decreasing swelling,” says Dixit.
Ice can serve a secondary but also important function: It soothes acute pain. Cold temperatures cause numbness in living tissue. Strategic application of ice can ease your pain when it’s at its worst. To prevent injury—an extreme example would be frostbite, which can actually cause skin and muscle tissue to die—it’s recommended that you don’t apply ice directly to the skin, and that you not use it for more than ten minutes at a time without taking a break.
When to Use Heat
“Heat is generally more helpful for issues that have occurred over time,” says Dr. Dixit. In other words, it’s more likely to be helpful for chronic, reoccurring injuries, and “tightness if it is not related to swelling.” While ice constricts the blood vessels, heat tends to dilate them, increasing blood flow. That’s why you generally don’t want to use heat if there’s swelling. You don’t want to increase blood flow to an area that’s already overloaded with blood.
Heat is more useful in instances of stiffness (again, when not related to swelling) when mobility and/or range of motion is somewhat limited. These conditions are often, but not always, caused or exacerbated by insufficient blood flow. In those cases, the judicious application of heat may provide some relief of these symptoms and promote healing.
Naturally, too much heat is another good way to damage your skin (ever heard of something called “burning?”), so similar to ice, it’s best to cycle the application of heat on and off, though you can generally go for periods up to 20 minutes up to half an hour (think jacuzzis). If your skin becomes red, inflamed, or painful, stop and use a lower temperature for a shorter amount of time.
By Brent Rose