Injuries: when to ice, when to apply heat, when to leave alone and why.

jarrod Blog

Injury Ice Vs Heat

The forever lasting debate causes a lot of confusion, and today we are here to give you some clarity and dispel a few myths.

Think acute, fresh injuries within the first 24-48 hours of occurrence.
Strained muscles, sprained joints, bruises etc, but there are always exceptions to the rule.
Ice should be used as a calming agent, a recent injury that is very red, inflamed, swollen and painful is ideal for ice. But remember that a normal amount of inflammation is good, what is not good is excessive inflammation, the type of inflammation that is incredibly painful or extremely stubborn and won’t settle.

Ice is essentially a way to reduce pain without drugs.

Think long standing chronic injuries, tired or fatigued muscles, stress, stiff or painful joints. Heat as an effective therapy follows two common pathways; the first being vasodilation (expanding the blood vessels) which promotes additional healing properties to the painful area. Secondly, chronic pain often involves the preconceived ideas of stress, anxiety, and hypersensitisation, and heat can soothe a hypervigilant mind and calm your nervous system (like a long soak in a warm bath).

When Not To Use Either HEAT or ICE?
Never heat an already acutely inflamed area.
This can result in excessive inflammation and lead to further pain.
Conversely, ice can further aggravate an already tight and stiff area (for example painful tight calves).
A simple way to determine what therapy you need is to think of the injured area.
If it is already hot and red and swollen don’t add more heat. If the area is tired, stiff or aching don’t add ice.
The wrong therapy can alert your central nervous system and brain of further potential threat or injury, which leads your body to create more pain.

So what should you use?
Both ice and heat have scientifically low evidence in treating injuries, but both are very cheap ways of reducing pain if used properly. Listen to your body…… You know your body better than anyone, so if it’s providing you with relief then keep it up. If you’re icing the area and it hurts more then stop, and vice versa. If you’re using one and don’t like the feel then try the other. If that doesn’t help then don’t use either.

Ideally with any injury it is best to seek professional advice to ensure you’re getting the best management for your injury, so give your myPod Podiatrist a call on 0412 159 597 or send us a message by clicking HERE to book an appointment.