Ouch, I’m hurt! Do I Ice or Heat the Pain?
If you’ve recently injured yourself and are not sure what to do, then read on.
More often then not, our patients are confused about when to ice or heat an injury. Is it a sprain or is it a strain? There are various methods to decide whether icing or heating is the way to go for an injury, but you should always consult your doctor or chiropractor if you are not sure. This article will help injury sufferers with causes and possible answers.
I think the first thing we should do is talk about what effects each of those have on your body.
Ice (cold), causes a response called vasoconstriction. Vasoconstriction means that the blood vessels that are being stimulated by the ice are narrowing or constricting. This causes less blood flow to an area thus reducing inflammation (swelling).
Heat (warm), causes a response called vasodilation. This means that the blood vessels being stimulated by the heat in the area actually enlarge or dilate to bring more blood to the area. This brings oxygen and nutrients to an area to support healing.
So…now for the answer. The cardinal rule is always use ICE for the first 72 hours or 3 days. Why? Because when you injure an area there is a tremendous amount of swelling (inflammation). Ice, because it causes vasoconstriction, will reduce the amount of inflammation. The will provide the natural anti-inflammatory effect by reducing swelling as well an analgesic effect (pain killer) by numbing the area.
Following the first 72 hours, usually you can transition to heat. This will cause vasodilation bringing more blood to the area which also brings oxygen and nutrients to begin the healing process. There is also an analgesic (pain killer) effect.
We can get very technical and talk about contrast baths and alternating therapies with using a combination of ice and heat, but for now to keep it simple, let’s just say ice for the first three days and heat after that. If you forget that then just always remember ice is always appropriate but heat may have a negative effect.
Remember, No advice should ever take the place of seeking professional care. If you are at all unsure of the severity of your injury, please contact your physician.