There is a lot of confusion about when to use ice and when to use heat for an injury and using the incorrect therapy can prolong your pain. I am going to focus on when and how to correctly use cold therapy.
- Use a sandwich bag with ice, a cold gel pack or my personal favorite; a small bag of white rice can be used for acute, overuse and chronic injuries. The cold helps to narrow blood vessels, decrease swelling and limits internal bleeding.
- Apply the ice pack for 10-15 minutes at a time, using a thin towel so it is not too cold for your skin. After 15 minutes allow your skin temperature to return to normal before icing a second or third time.
- You can do this process several times a day for up to 3 days.
- Applying your cold pack to where your skull and neck meet is a wonderful way to alleviate headache and migraine pain.
- Never ice before activity.
- Please see your doctor if your injury does not improve or gets worse within 48 hours.
And now a bit about heat therapy. Heat can be used for injuries or chronic injuries with NO inflammation or swelling. Because heat expands, you will make your injury worse if you heat an area that is already suffering from inflammation, such as a pinched nerve in your back or neck. In the case of sore, stiff and nagging muscle or joint pain, heat is ideal. Never heat after exercise!
By following the above suggestions you can get back to your life and activities in no time.