When you are in pain, you will likely do anything in your power to help yourself feel better. But, sometimes, no matter how well-intentioned you are, you may do more harm than good when seeking treatment. Some home treatment options include anti-inflammatory medications or the use of ice or heat.
Ice and heat can do a lot to help you heal, but they are not created equal and can be used at the wrong time. If you want to use ice or heat for your injury, it is crucial to know when to use each and how it can benefit your healing process.
Our team at Elite Chiropractic wants you to understand when to use ice or heat for your injuries and how improper use may lead to more substantial problems.
The Importance Of Heat
When you are in pain, you may reach for a heating pad to deliver some relief. When used for the appropriate injuries, heat can make a substantial difference. Heat stimulates blood flow toward the injury site. As the blood flows, it carries nutrients to the injury and helps promote healing. It also helps muscles unclench, making you more comfortable as you begin to heal. Forms of heat therapy that you can perform at home may include using heating pads, soaking in hot water, and steamed towels.
The Importance of Ice
While heat is a great way to draw blood toward an injury to begin promoting healing, ice is a wonderful way to calm inflammation and irritation. It is especially common to utilize ice immediately following an accident or injury. Ice is a crucial part of the healing process, as it constricts blood flow, which can help quell edema, also known as swelling. The most common form of ice therapy is the use of an ice pack, though some may also utilize ice baths and coolant sprays at home as well.
When To Use Heat Therapy
If you are looking for treatment to relax muscles and promote healing, you should seek heat therapies. If you are dealing with any of the following injuries, you may benefit from at-home heat therapies:
- Muscle stiffness and tension: If you are experiencing back pain as a result of muscle stiffness, heat therapies can help relax the muscles, relieving this discomfort.
- Muscle spasms: Using heat while a muscle is spasming may help the muscle relax and prevent continued spasming.
- Chronic pain: If you experience chronic pain from conditions such as fibromyalgia or arthritis, heat therapies may help improve mobility and comfort.
While heat therapies are a great way to soothe discomfort, it is essential that you understand how to use them properly. Heat should never exceed 113°F, as excessive heat may cause more damage to injured areas. If you are using at-home heat therapies, the heat should only be applied for 15 to 20 minutes. Additionally, the heat should never have direct contact with the skin. A cloth or towel should be placed between the heat source and your skin to prevent burns.
When To Use Ice Therapy
When seeking ice therapy, it is often most beneficial to an acute or new injury. Many of these injuries are followed by immediate swelling, which benefits most from ice. If you are experiencing any of the following injuries, you should consider using ice therapies to treat them:
- Wrist or ankle sprains: Ice can help reduce swelling of strained or sprained muscles, ligaments, or tendons that accompany these sprains.
- Joint or muscle sprains: Whether the irritation is from sports injuries or arthritis, ice may alleviate some pain and inflammation.
- Swollen body parts: Ice is especially helpful for swelling because it cools blood running through the injured body part. If your skin is hot to the touch, you should reach for ice.
- Headaches or migraines: While this isn’t an external injury, it still benefits from ice’s healing properties. If you have a headache or migraine, ice may be able to soothe some of that discomfort.
Ice therapies should be used immediately following your injury for them to be most beneficial. Like heat therapies, you should only use it for 15 to 20 minutes, and it shouldn’t come in direct contact with the skin. If the skin becomes pale or numb, ice should immediately be removed. If you are unsure whether to use ice or heat, you should reach out to your primary care provider. They can assess the extent of the injury and provide you with a proper healing plan.
Can You Use Ice Or Heat At The Wrong Time?
It is important that you use ice or heat to help yourself heal from injuries; it is even more important to understand when each can do more harm than good. If you use ice or heat at the wrong time, you may deal with increases in swelling or slower healing times. Try to avoid heat therapies when dealing with swelling, acute injuries such as falls, or after activity. Ice should be avoided if you have muscle or joint stiffness. Whether you use ice or heat, remember to heed these warnings to prevent worsening the injury and extending the healing time.
Use Ice Or Heat With Chiropractic Care
While it is great to use ice or heat on your injury during the healing process, there is more that you can do to boost the healing process. If you are experiencing an injury that you are struggling to recover from, you should consider seeking the help of a chiropractor. At Elite Chiropractic, our team has years of experience that makes us confident we can help you through whatever injury you have.
Our team helps patients with pain from auto accidents, pregnancy, sports injuries, and more. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment with our Elite Chiropractic team or would like to speak with us about the services and how they can help you heal while you use ice or heat on your injury, contact us today.