Ice or Heat – Are you doing it wrong?

Ice or Heat – Are you doing it wrong?

Chiropractic Naples FL Heat And Ice

The age old question, “should I ice or heat (the painful area) at home?” The answer is – well, it depends!

At Gulf Coast Spine & Sport, we recommend that anyone with an acute injury ice the area if needed to reduce swelling and possibly reduce soreness that may arise. Now, if an injury is more of a chronic and/or muscular problem – heat or ice can be beneficial, depending on what makes the person feel better.

An acute injury is one that happens suddenly. Examples would be a sprained ankle, back or neck pain or even if you “tweak” your knee while exercising. Many times, there will be swelling or inflammation associated with acute injuries and rule of thumb is to use ice to help reduce this inflammation.

A chronic issue is one that you have had for weeks, months or years and just doesn’t seem to go away. Chronic pain can many times be associated with poor body mechanics and/or muscle dysfunctions. These areas are fine to use heat and may help to loosen the muscles and increase range of motion. Some athletes with chronic pain may choose to heat an affected area BEFORE activity in order to reduce pain and increase the elasticity of the surrounding tissues.

Why the difference? Heat is a vasodilator and ice is a vasoconstrictor. This means that heat makes blood vessels larger which increases blood flow while ice decreases the size of blood vessels which in turn decreases the amount of blood that can flow to an injured area. So, if you apply heat to an acute injury and increase blood flow, you are potentially increasing the amount of inflammation to the affected joint or injured area (which could make it feel worse).

Proper length of time for both heat and ice is approximately 15-20 minutes on the area. With both heat and ice, it is possible to burn your skin, so make sure to place a thin cloth between your skin and whatever modality you are using.

When in doubt, go for the ice for at least 72 hours after an injury and remember, NEVER sleep with ice or a heating pack! If you have any questions, call Gulf Coast Spine & Sport and get some advice from either Dr. Scott or Dr. Hillary!

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Gulf Coast Spine & Sport, LLC

2240 Venetian Ct, Unit A
Naples, FL 34109

(239) 745-5561