Heat or ice is a regular debate amongst many and one of the most frequently asked questions by clients that walk into our clinics. It is a question that needs to be answered in order for our clients to make a speedy recovery or prevent ongoing injuries. There are few rules that need to be followed to understand the “Heat or ICE” debate…
When should you use ice?
The main use for ice is for immediate injury treatment when you sustain a joint sprain, muscle tear or impact injury such as a dead leg. Ice is excellent at reducing the amount of swelling that is produced as a result of an injury. The swelling can cause more pain and the ice will reduce the amount of inflammation around the injury, speeding up the overall recovery.
Application of ice is most effective as soon as possible after the injury. The body’s natural inflammation process is immediate so to reduce inflammation, the ice ideally wants to be immediate. However, even if ice is applied 24hours after the injury, it is better than no ice at all.
Immediate injury treatment isn’t the only way ice can be used. Ice is also very good for recovery after heavy bouts of training or exercise. Ice will send blood away from muscles that have been used, therefore removing toxins that build up in the muscles during exercise and aiding recovery.
When should you use heat?
Heat is an important method used to treat muscle spasms and nerve pain. The heat has a great soothing effect on your bodies’ nervous system which can reduce tension and help your muscles to relax. One of the reasons that massage is so beneficial to clients with nerve pain and muscle spasms is because massage naturally produces heat, which in turn soothes the pain. Heat can help you extend your natural range of movement in a muscle or a joint which enables you to function more efficiently.
Can you us both at the same time?
Using both heat and ice alternatively at the same time can also be beneficial during rehabilitation and injury treatment. If you apply heat to a muscle, joint or tendon it draws blood to this area and then when ice is applied immediately afterwards, it sends the blood away quicker than your body would normally do it. This process speeds up your body’s natural healing process and shortens the time that you spend away from sport and exercise. Heat and ice is most commonly used together about 3-4 days after an injury occurs. At this stage, the injury is less acute and the application of heat will not cause additional bleeding around the injury, which, as explained will encourage swelling and inflammation.