Should I Heat It or Ice It?
At Excelsior Orthopaedics, we see athletes and patients who have suffered all kinds of muscle, bone and other bodily injuries, and the one prevailing question that we get asked quite frequently is a simple one: should I ice this or heat it?
With swollen muscles, bone bruises, sprained joints and other less-than-severe injuries, the treatment can sometimes be as simple as getting plenty of rest and finding ways to relieve the pain. And in these cases, the answer is usually to use ice on the injury.
In any injury where your body suffered from some kind of fall or collision and is now fighting off a bruise, swelling or bleeding, the best solution to the pain and inflammation is to ice the affected area. Ice helps to constrict the blood vessels in the injured area and prevent inflammation and bleeding. By preventing inflammation, you can also help to relieve pain.
What about general soreness?
If you’re experiencing pain and soreness from overuse or misuse of joints and muscles, the correct course of action is also to relieve to relive the pain with ice. Most conditions that qualify as inflammations of the extremities can best be treated by applying ice for 15-20 minutes at a time while being careful to keep a layer of cloth between the ice and your skin.
So when is it best to use heat?
Heat can help improve blood flow to affected areas and is great for loosening up stiff muscles before exercise and activity. In general, heating is a great way to get warmed up for something and ice is the best way to treat yourself and your injuries after activity.
With this in mind, it’s important to remember that icing away the pain is not a cure-all for medical issues. If you have significant pain for more than a few days and you’re not seeing sings of improvement, you should meet with your doctor to assess the situation. And if you know ice just won’t cut it and your injury is too severe, consider getting attention or treatment from an immediate care center such as our Excelsior Orthopaedics Express office.