Injury treatment; Ice vs. Heat

Unfortunately at some point we have all experienced soft tissue injury and its a common question whether ice or heat are the proper treatment for such injuries.  Well, the simple answer is that it all depends on timing. If you have an acute injury ice is the appropriate protocol for the first 24-48 hours (exact time will depend on swelling and pain). Ice should be applied every 2-3 hours for no longer than 20 minutes at a time to bring down swelling and reduce any muscle spasm and pain. The application of ice on such an injury actually help slow bleeding to the affected area and prevents stiffness due to additional fluid/inflammation around the injury site.

Following the initial 24-48 hours after the injury heat should be used to bring blood and nutrients back to injured tissue to aid in the healing process. Application of heat causes blood vessels to dilate allowing greater blood flow back to the affected site. As with ice, heat should only be applied for short periods of time (no longer than 20 minutes) and it should be warm, not hot.  Heat may be applied before exercise or activity to relax and loosen tissue.

Once the healing process has begun it is not uncommon to apply ice following exercise or activity to relieve any pain or discomfort that may occur.

 

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