How do I know when I should use ice or heat for pain?

When that old niggling back pain flares up, do you reach for an ice pack or a heat pack? If you’re not sure which one to use and when, this quick guide is here to help.

When to ICE your pain

In the RICE method for injury management (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation), ice is used to slow blood flow and reduce swelling and pain. It works best for new injuries and to reduce inflammation. Cold therapy may not be suitable if you have bad circulation.

When to HEAT your pain

Heat therapy increases blood flow to relax and heal soft tissue. If you experience muscle pain, joint stiffness, or headaches, reach for the heat pack. Heat therapy is also a great way to relax away tension and rehabilitate long-term injuries. Always ensure heat is distributed evenly.

A quick guide to cold therapy

• Apply ice to acute injuries within the first 72 hours
• Use for injuries and inflammation
• Best for recent injuries, sprains and strains, joint pain, swelling, tendonitis
• Do not use around the front or side of the neck
• Try using an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables

A quick guide to heat therapy

• Start applying heat 72 hours after an injury
• Use for sore muscles and chronic pain
• Best for headaches, arthritis, and long-term injuries
• Do not use on cuts or bruises
• Try using a heat bag or a heated wet towel

Tips for using heat or ice therapy

Use heat therapy to warm your muscles before exercise and cold therapy after your post-workout stretch. Never apply ice or heat directly to your skin. Remember not to exceed 20 minutes at a time to avoid skin and nerve damage and if alternating, wait an hour between uses.

Be safe – Consult your doctor before using cold therapy or heat therapy if you are diabetic or have cardiovascular disease, heart disease, or hypertension.

Prevention is the best medicine

Ice and heat are quick methods of pain relief, but it’s better to prevent the injury in the first place by ensuring your body is functioning at its optimal levels of flexibility, strength, and recovery. Contact your nearby chiropractor to find out how to maximise your health and fitness.

Book an appointment online at https://www.mychiro.com.au/