Ice vs. Heat.. It may sound like an anticipated superhero movie ready to hit the big screen, but it’s actually a question most have debated in their life when they’ve sustained and injury. Ice packs and heating pads are a universal treatment for many injuries. But which one is the right method for your injury? And the answer isn’t always easy.
Ice treatments are more common for acute injuries. If you are experiencing swelling or any tissue inflammation within a 48-hour window, then you should be using ice. Ice is best in situations where you need to control inflammation and keep your pain level in check.
The most common injury ice packs are used for are sprained ankles. Ice treatments are also commonly used for athletes who have overused injury or chronic conditions. However, it’s important to not ice any chronic injury before any activity.
Only use ice packs for 15- 30 minutes on an injury and remove if the injury becomes bright red or pink.
Heat therapy or treatments work by improving blood flow and circulation in a particular area. Heating an injured area can soothe pain, aid in damaged tissues and increase muscle flexibility. Heat treatments are most effective for muscles that are sore. It’s important to not have scalding temperatures when dealing with any heat therapy but at a comfortable level of heat that allows to alleviate the stiffness and muscle ache.
Cases in which heat treatment should not be used are if the area is bruised or swollen, or if the area affected is an open wound.
Unlike Ice therapy, heat treatments are more beneficial if used for longer time periods. Moderate to severe pain can benefit from 30 minutes to two hours of heat therapy.