Should You Ice or Heat a New Injury?
In the face of an injury, your first goal is likely to find relief in any form. This can come in the form of whatever you have on hand – ice, heat, pain medication, or anything else. While relieving pain is important, there is an ideal way to address injuries, which often depends on the type of injury, location, and severity. It’s important to understand not only when ice or heat is appropriate, but also when an injury requires more care from a Rochester Hills chiropractor or another medical professional.
Icing a New Injury
Ice is many people’s first thought to relieve pain because of the numbing effect caused by the coldness. But ice is best used in the immediate aftermath of an injury, or the first few days of it occurring. The numbing is helpful, but the real reason ice is helpful is that the cold shrinks your blood vessels in that area, which can reduce swelling and bleeding, as well as helping with muscle spasms.
It is important to use ice appropriately to avoid more injury. The general recommendation is early and often, but never for more than 20-30 minutes at a time. You should never apply ice directly to the skin – instead, use a towel or piece of fabric to act as a barrier around the ice pack.
If you don’t have an ice pack, a good option is always to use a bag of frozen peas or something similar, or to wrap ice cubes in a wet towel.
Using Heat on an Injury
In contrast, a new injury should generally not be treated with heat. The warmth will relax and loosen tissues, which can stimulate blood flow and cause more bleeding or swelling. It also won’t minimize pain in the immediate aftermath. In fact, using heat right after an injury can increase or worsen pain and actually prevent healing.
The better application for heat is before certain activities to avoid an injury by loosening muscles and relieving tension. After an injury has begun to heal and swelling isn’t present, heat can help with aches and pains and can be used as a part of recovery.
When Ice and Heat Aren’t Enough
Many injuries will require more attention than just icing, heating, or any other home remedies. For example, a herniated disc cannot be fixed by simply relieving pain at home. If your injury may be serious, or icing and heating does not relieve symptoms within a short period of time, it is important to reach out to a professional.
Dr. Thomas Madigan and Dr. Brendan Shanahan will evaluate each injury to determine what treatment is needed for healing and to create a plan of care around that. We may also share with you at-home techniques for relieving pain between adjustments, like ice and heat, to help you be proactive about your care. No injury is too small for the team at Vitality Precision Chiropractic, so it is always better to err on the side of caution and contact us today to schedule your consultation!