When should I use ice and when should I use heat? One of the most common questions asked in a chiropractic office.
What patients really want, is to get out of pain and to be comfortable again. The reason for pain is inflammation. Inflammation is characterized by pain, swelling, heat, redness, joint and muscle stiffness. You do not have pain without inflammation. The sooner your body moves past inflammation, the sooner you will be out of pain.
Treating inflammation is of paramount importance. Think of inflammation as fire. You want to put the fire out as soon as possible. Adding heat is adding fuel to the fire. Ice will smolder the fire and soothe the pain, swelling, heat, redness and stiffness.
Treat the inflammation with ice for 20 minutes as frequently as necessary, even twice an hour. Your skin should be chilled after ice therapy. If there is too much insulation between your body and the ice and your skin and muscle isn’t chilling then the ice needs to have closer contact with your skin.
The role of heat is to increase blood flow to an area and to relax tight muscles. Limit the use of heat to 20 minutes. This does not mean to soak a sprained ankle or strained muscle in a hot tub. You are better off with an ice bath for new injuries or an exacerbation of an old injury.
If all else fails and you don’t remember what to use then do nothing at all. Your body knows perfectly well how to heal. You are better off to do nothing then to put heat on inflamed joints, muscles or skin.
Rodney Shoemaker, DC, works with Incline Chiropractic Natural Health Center, located at 894 Southwood Blvd. in Incline Village. Learn more at inclinechiropractic.com.