By Matt Wanderscheid, Doctor of Physical Therapy
It’s the new year! Part of what I want to do in 2022 is start answering some of the most common questions our patients ask us on a daily basis. One very common question is the age old debate on ice vs heat! I will try to break it down for you so you can hopefully reach for the right one the next time you need it!
ICE- Brrr. Sounds cold just thinking about it, but ice is an extremely effective tool for reducing pain and inflammation. Ice works by causing the blood vessels to constrict or narrow, therefor limiting the amount of blood flow and inflammation to that area. Ice is best used in the first few days or hours after an injury occurs. Say you roll your ankle; Ice is generally a good tool, especially when combined with elevation, to reduce the immediate swelling that takes over after an injury. In most cases, swelling, redness, or pain associated with a new injury or aggravation of an old injury can benefit from ice.
Heat- Ahhh, sounds a lot better, especially during these winter months than ice, right? Heat works by dilating the blood vessels in our body to increase blood flow to an area. This is another great tool when used appropriately to encourage muscle relaxation and blood flow to an area. Some good rules to follow would be to avoid heat the first few days after an injury or if the injury appears red, swollen, or inflamed in any way. Heat is great for pains that have been around for a while or for tight muscles that you would like to loosen up before you go for a walk or try to sleep at night.
I hope this helps! If you have specific questions on what would be most safe and effective for you or if you have tried both and neither are no longer doing the please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org