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It’s the battle of the ages: Coke vs. Pepsi, Marvel vs. DC, heating vs. icing an injury. Heating and icing, or thermotherapy and cryotherapy if you want to get technical, are great natural treatment options for pain. But when using different treatments, you’re obviously going to get two different outcomes. So which treatment is better for your situation? Here’s what you need to know.
Timing is Everything
In order to determine the right treatment, you’ll need to determine the cause of your pain. How recent was your injury? If you’ve suddenly found yourself with a strain, sharp pain or swelling, then icing is probably going to be your best bet. Especially within the first 72 hours, icing can help reduce pain and swelling around fresh wounds.
On the other hand, if your pain has been a chronic issue, then a heating pad is going to help with muscle stiffness and circulation. A solid deciding factor between the two is about six weeks: icing an injury under six weeks and heating injuries that last longer.
Understand the Usage
Whether you choose to ice or heat, over-exposure to those frozen peas or heating pad can cause damage. A buffer layer, such as a towel, protects your body while still allowing for the right amount of treatment. Direct contact causes more harm than good.
Understand the Results
While heating an injury is going to open up blood vessels and loosen muscles, icing is going to do the opposite. Therefore, heat isn’t recommended if you’re treating an injury that’s still bleeding, because it would make matters much worse. Again, newer injuries call for reduced swelling, while chronic pain will call for relaxing pain points and stressed areas of the body.
Know the limits
Both heating and icing an injury can have downsides if you’re not careful. Over-icing is known to increase stiffness, while too much heating can lead to a burn. i’move recommends using ice or heat for only 15 minutes at a time, allowing the body to rest between 20 minutes to an hour. Using the right amount of ice and/or heating treatment is going to give you the best results.
i’move is dedicated to helping you recover from pain. Our physical therapy and fitness programs are designed to help you heal naturally, getting you back to peak performance. Schedule an appointment with us to start seeing results.