Is it better to ice or heat my injury?

Icing and heating injuries are among the most commonly used treatments in orthopedics. The choice depends on the person and the injury, but the basic understanding of each strategy can help you make the right choice every time.

Ice Treatment

With any sprain, bruise or strain, there is always some internal bleeding under the tissue which can cause swelling and pain. Ice treatment can be used as an immediate treatment or used later for rehabilitation of soft tissue injuries.

Below are some of the benefits:
• It can be used for acute injuries when there is a swelling problem as it constricts blood vessels, which decreases blood flow to the injured area. It helps reduce blood flow which reduces swelling and inflammation.
• It’s also known to lower cell metabolism and helps prevent tissue death.
• It eases muscle pain and spasm.
• It reduces bleeding into the tissues

Some of the icing methods include:

Frozen ice packs – This is easy to use and molds to the shape of the body part being iced.
Ice cups – It’s an easy way to use cryotherapy. It can be made using paper cups where you add water and freeze.

For safer treatments using ice, many people think that RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression & Elevation) is the ideal formula for soft tissue injury. It, however, can cause cold burns, numbing your skin. The best solution is RCCE (Rest, Cold, Compression, and Elevation). It’s not advisable to apply ice below water freezing point, but it’s best to apply cold that is just above freezing.

Heat Treatment

Heat treatment is for chronic injuries that have lasted more than a week. It consists of symptoms like tight muscles, arthritis, aches and muscle spasms.

Its benefits include:
• It helps relax and loosen tissues causing vasodilation which widens blood vessels. This increases blood flow to the injured tissue, which in turn improves oxygen circulation and speeds the healing process.
• It helps relax tight muscles for additional stretching as tense muscles can put a strain on other tissues in the area.
• It’s known to provide relief as it feels more soothing and comforting.

How to use heat effectively
• Only use heat on a chronic injury that’s not swollen or in pain.
• Do not apply heat after an activity or when you have an acute injury.
• You should not use heat when pain and swelling have ceased.
• Always exercise caution when using heat to chronic injuries caused by overuse.

While the main goal is to increase strength and flexibility, rehabilitating an injury is never an easy process. A massage also plays a key role as a supplement to standard injuries. Its benefits include:
• Improving muscle relaxation
• Shortening recovery time
• It helps release fluids and tension around muscles
• Also, helps in the pumping of oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs.

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