For any athlete, of any age and any level, small strains and sprains can bring their game to a screeching, and painful halt. Often, the standard advice for treating such minor injuries is to make use of either heat or ice to help relieve pain, reduce swelling and generally shorten the time it takes to heal an injury. But, the one thing that many people don’t really quite understand is when the use of ice is appropriate and when they should use heat instead.
The good news is that there are some relatively simple ways to determine this. Let’s take a look:
Icing an Injury
When applied to an injury ice will constrict blood flow to the muscles. As the muscles are cooled by the ice the amount of blood it contains temporarily decreases, as the construction pushes it out. This will quickly help to reduce swelling, bruising and discomfort. Then, after the ice is removed and the muscles warm back up blood rushes back, clears some of the ‘debris’ the injury may have left behind and the healing process is ‘jump-started’.
When icing an injury cold should only be applied for ten minutes at a time and the ice should never be held to the skin directly. A store bought ice pack can be helpful, but ice wrapped in a towel works just as well and is, of course, the cheaper option. And if you happen to have a pack of frozen peas in the freezer that might be even more effective as the peas ‘mold’ themselves around limbs easily. Finally, over-icing will not accelerate healing more, it will actually be rather counterproductive so do not be tempted to do so.
Applying Heat to an Injury
Heat application will help relieve the pain caused by chronic muscle injuries, those that persist for a long time. When heat is applied to such an injury it opens up the blood vessels, allowing blood flow to the injured area to increase. This is beneficial as most chronic injuries of this nature do have some kind of ischemia (lack of blood) associated with them. This slows healing and so the application of heat helps reverse the problem and speed things back up again.
What Happens if You Get Things Wrong?
What happens if you apply heat to an acute injury or ice a chronic injury? Here’s a scenario. You grab your morning coffee, it’s super hot and you burn your tongue. What are you going to do to help that nasty little injury, suck on an ice cube or take another big swig of java? The choice is pretty obvious isn’t it?
However with a muscle injury things are slightly different. If you apply heat to an acute injury it will feel good for a little while but the inflammation will increase, leaving you in pain – and maybe even more so – after it’s taken away. And the same is true if ice is applied to a chronic injury.
If you are not sure how to treat an injury consulting with a medical professional is the best idea. Even a simple sprain can become something nastier if not treated in the right way. A simple appointment with a chiropractor can, however, help you determine just what happened and the best way to treat the injury so that you’ll be back in action in no time.
We are taking new patients and offering free consultations, and that way we find out if you are someone we can help before going any further. Call us today for a free consultation at (913)-953-5959 or CLICK HERE for more information about our Overland Park chiropractic office.