Different methods of heat and ice therapy prove to be an effective and inexpensive way to provide relief. When is it good to heat and when is it beneficial to use ice? The correct use of heat and ice at the proper time can aide in reducing recovery time.
Let’s first understand what heat and ice do. Ice constricts blood flow to muscles, thus decreasing swelling, bruising and discomfort. As the muscle cools, the amount of blood in the muscle diminishes as the constriction process pushes it out. As the muscle warms and the blood vessels expand, new blood comes rushing in and cleans the debris left behind from the injury and stimulates the healing process. As a general rule of thumb, icing is best for acute injuries.
The application of heat therapy stimulates blood flow to the area, which brings restorative oxygen and nutrients. Additionally, heat can inhibit the transmission of pain signals to your brain and decrease your stiffness. Heat is generally not a good idea for new injuries because it can make the swelling and inflammation worse. Heat can work very well for chronic pain, relaxing muscles before exercise.
A common problem area for many people is the low back. Chronic pain can be debilitating and extremely uncomfortable. So what might be best for chronic low back pain? There is no straight forward answer; it may be trial and error until you find a remedy that works best for you. But when it comes to exercise, many people with chronic back pain find heat therapy helps to warm up their muscles beforehand, while cold therapy helps with pain and inflammation afterwards.
The chart below identifies some common reasons for pain and which treatment is most beneficial. Remember if you have any serious injuries consult with a doctor before self-diagnosing.
Blog post by Farran Jalbert.