When to use Ice vs Heat
Are you suffering from an injury and wonder if ice or heat can help? When used properly, ice and heat can be therapeutic modalities that are easily accessible by all of us. A general rule is that ICE is for any injuries that are fresh, red, swollen and hot whilst HEAT is for anything chronic, stiff and achy.
Acute injuries such as a contusion (or more commonly known as a corky), a rolled ankle or a fracture generally elicits a cascade of inflammatory response. Inflammation is our body’s natural mechanism to protect and repair, by bringing extra blood flow (hence the swelling) and sensitising the pain to stop you from using that injured structure. Excessive inflammation, however, increases pain and reduces mobility. Ice calms down the inflammatory response by controlling the swelling and numbing the pain. Sports physios also use ice for muscle soreness post-exercises/ post-sports for pain relief.
As you may be able to picture, if heat is applied to a freshly rolled ankle, it will only bring more blood flow and make a balloon out of an already swollen ankle. The therapeutic properties of heat to encourage circulation and relax muscles make it useful for chronic pain. Athletes with tight muscles, or any structures with tension in it find it improves elasticity of soft tissue. It also has good pain-relieving effect on arthritic joints which is beneficial in the more senior population.
In short, use ice on anything that looks fresh and angry but heat for more long term painful structure,
If you need to see a sports physio for any advice regarding your injury or sports performance. Feel free to contact Capital Physiotherapy, our friendly physios are more than happy to help!