Should I Ice or Heat?
It's time to clear up the confusion on one of the most misunderstood topics. Icing and heating are simple therapeutic treatments that have the potential to make your healing process better or worse.
Let’s first understand what inflammation is. It is the body’s natural response through the immune system to remove unwanted stimuli and begin the healing process. The only issue is that people of this day and age are hyper-inflammatory, partially due to the large amounts of chemicals we are exposed to. So from some with small physical injuries they can experience excess inflammation.
Luckily, icing is proven to help reduce swelling and inflammation. Because of the cold properties of the ice pack, the blood vessels constrict which inhibits blood flow to that area. This numbs the skin and reduces the pain caused by swelling. Before you strap an ice pack to yourself though, also consider this. When you ice, your blood vessels aren’t transporting complete nutrients due to restricted blood flow. So after 20 minutes of icing your blood vessels will naturally widen to increase blood flow and nutrients again. Icing for 20 minutes every 2 hours for up to 3 days lets you reap the benefits without worsening your symptoms.
When does heat come into play? Heating is perfect for comfort, reassurance and taking the edge off pain. Since heat increases blood flow, you never want to use it on a recent injury. Heating is ideal for over-exerted muscles, trigger points, spasms, cramping, stiffness, and especially fibromyalgia. When used appropriately, heat pads can be a safe alternative to other pain treatments. If you are looking at purchasing a heating pad you might come across moist and dry heat options. Moist heating pads are a better option because it causes less skin irritation and penetrates deeper into the muscles.
If you find yourself uncertain about your injury or pain, we encourage you to email Dr. Ryan Smart at email@example.com.