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Ice vs. Heat Treatment for Your Injury

Lady with ankle injuryChoose Your Treatment Wisely.
We’re all familiar with the following scenario. You’re out walking, jogging, or even playing a game of basketball when someone turns their ankle. Suddenly, everyone has advice on how to deal with it ranging from: “don’t take your shoe off,” “put ice on it,” “put heat on it,” to the one person who always says, “walk it off.”

There always seems to be a lot of confusion on when to use ice and when to use heat for your injury. In truth, while both ice and heat therapies can be effective they are fundamentally different in the way they work to provide healing and relief, and using the wrong treatment at the wrong time can further aggravate your pain or injury.

Ice Treatment:
Ice is used in treating acute (new) injuries such as ankle sprains, fractures, and meniscus tears (torn cartilage in the knee). These types of injuries produce sudden, and often severe, pain and bring swelling (inflammation), tenderness, and the inability to put weight on the area. Ice helps to bring down the inflammation and swelling. Decreasing the swelling around your injury helps to control and ease the pain. Ice treatments are 10-15 minutes long.

Heat Treatment:
Heat is used to treat sore muscles, spasms, and to stimulate blood flow to the area. Heat can also be used prior to activities when you are recovering from muscle strains. In this case, heat is being used to help warm up and relax the injured muscles prior to activity. Sufferers of chronic pain, such as arthritis, often find that heat treatments bring some relief. The goal with heat treatment is warmth. If it is too hot you can damage your skin and other tissues. Heat treatments can run from 15-30 minutes. A good rule to follow: If the area feels worse or if inflammation increases two hours after using heat therapy, return to ice therapy because the inflammatory phase is still active.

Ice & Heat:
There are times when you can use both ice and heat to treat an injury, this is known as contrast therapy. If a muscle is torn or severely strained, inflammation will happen. Ice is used to bring the swelling down and control the initial inflammation from the injury. However, after the inflammation is gone, heat can be used to help with the healing. The added heat will increase blood flow to the injured area bringing more oxygen and nutrients to speed the healing process. Remember to monitor the injury. If inflammation returns, discontinue heat treatment.

Avoid these mistakes:

  • Do not use heat on an acute injury. It will draw additional blood to the injury area, increasing the inflammation and swelling. Heat instead of ice can make a injury worse and lengthen the healing time needed.
  • Do not use ice on a sore muscle. In can induce a muscle spasm.
  • Do not massage an acute injury. Massage will also bring additional blood to the injured area, once again increasing swelling and inflammation.
  • Do not apply ice directly to the skin or injured area. Direct contact with the ice can cause tissue damage to the skin, and possibly frostbite. Use a towel or cloth to wrap the ice.
  • Do not overdo either heat or ice.

Your Body’s Innate Healing Capabilities

Tennis elbowThe human body has amazing capabilities for self-healing, and knowing when to use ice or heat to treat an injury allows your body to heal even faster. With every injury, your body does its best to react quickly, stop internal and external bleeding, send immune cells to fight infection, and bring nutrients needed for healing to the injured area. But your body can only respond based on the knowledge acquired through your central nervous system, which can be compromised by some diseases (like diabetes), some medications, pinched nerves, and subluxations (misalignments) of the spine. Individuals with an optimally functioning central nervous system will heal and recover from their injuries faster.

Keeping Your Central Nervous System in Fighting Shape

As chiropractors, we know that the best way to keep your central nervous system performing at its best is to properly maintain your spine by keeping it in proper alignment. Many of our readers know the central nervous system starts at the brain, runs down through your spine, where it branches out and goes everywhere in your body reaching every organ, muscle, and extremity of your body. The feedback from these nerves provides the information your brain needs to send the healing nutrients, blood coagulation, and infection fighting blood cells to the injured area(s) in your body. Chiropractic care, by properly aligning your spine and taking pressure off your nerves, provides your brain with the correct feedback needed to heal your body as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Pressure on the nerves, pinched nerves, or any subluxation of the spine will slow down or even block the feedback the central nervous system is supposed to provide your brain. When this happens the healing process no longer functions as well or quickly as it should.

One of the great things about chiropractic care is it allows you to be proactive in your health care. At Kempsville Chiropractic we often see patients who come to us for “wellness care.” Yes, chiropractic care is great when you get injured, have back or neck pain, and when you are dealing with headaches, but chiropractic wellness care is the best way to keep your central nervous system in peak fighting condition. Not only will that speed up the healing process from any injury, but it will strengthen your immune system, help you avoid many headaches, back pain, and help keep every organ and muscle in your body functioning optimally.

Here is a quick list of some of the issues chiropractic wellness care can help you with.

Chiropractic care is one of the best things you can do to help keep your body functioning optimally, heal faster, and fight off illness. If you have an injury, or are experiencing any of the problems listed above, contact Kempsville Chiropractic at 757.467.5258 and arrange for a consultation with one of our doctors. If anyone of your friends or family has an injury that can benefit from chiropractic care, please recommend this article to them.



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© 2013-2016 Kempsville Chiropractic

These articles are the property of Kempsville Chiropractic. They may not be reused without permission. You are welcome to link to this article. Kempsville Chiropractic has been proudly serving Virginia Beach, Virginia; Chesapeake, Virginia; and Norfolk, Virginia since 1996.

The contents of this website are based upon the opinions of Dr. Lombardozzi. The information on this site is not intended as medical advice. The information contained on this website is a sharing of knowledge based on the experience and research of Dr. Lombardozzi and his staff. Dr. Lombardozzi recommends that patients make their health care decisions after doing their research and consulting with a qualified health care professional.

Contact us at 757.467.5258 to set an appointment.