Have you ever had an achy muscle, go home and throw on an ice pack? Did it help? Did it make it worse? Sometimes, ice isn’t the best home therapy to use. Sometimes, heat therapy will better assist your aches and pains. In this week’s blog, we will compare the differences between ice vs. heat therapy and the benefits for both.
Ice therapy is what individuals will typically put on if there is redness or swelling. If you are one of these individuals, then you are absolutely correct! Ice is used in cases of inflammation including swelling and redness, as well as acute conditions (1-3 days). For those of you who use heat in these situations, STOP; even if it feels good. In cases of increased inflammation, heat will increase blood flow promoting more inflammation, therefore, prolonging the healing process. So how long do you apply ice for? The magic number is typically 20 minutes and no more than that. Don’t forget to include a towel so you don’t get frostbite. The reason for that is because after about 20 minutes the ice effect begins to reverse and will make you worse. So, remember the term CBAN. It stands for cold, burning, aching, numbness. After every 5 minutes, you will feel each of these sensations in that order. After 20 minutes and the numbness kicks in, that is when the ice should be removed. So, what conditions can have ice applied? Anything with inflammation including redness and swelling. Other conditions that ice can be applied to are migraines, skin pimples/warts, strains/sprains, etc.
So, what is heat therapy used for? Well, anything that doesn’t involve inflammation or swelling. Heat is used in conditions that are considered chronic injuries (>3 days) as well as muscle spasms, tension headaches, fibromyalgia, bursitis, chronic arthritis, etc. Heat’s biggest benefit is that it increases blood flow to areas that are getting a lack of blood supply due to injury. So how long do you apply heat to an area? Again, the magic number is 20 minutes because anything longer than that will promote too much blood flow creating inflammation, which we do not want. When applying heat, you want to make sure to wrap 6-8 layers of towel on the hot pack to prevent any burns from occurring.
How Chiropractors Play a Role
Rehab/therapy rooms are becoming more popular in chiropractic offices. Along with therapeutic exercises and stretches, many chiropractors will have a unit where ice and heat can be applied after their treatment for positive effect. At our office, we have heating lamps to help supplement after each patient’s treatment, especially for decompression patients. These are tips that you can use in the vicinity of your own home. Before doing so, give us a call to assure that you can use these therapies is certain health conditions may prevent you from using these therapies. Contact us today if you have any questions about ice vs. heat therapy or want to schedule an appointment.