Ice it or heat it?


Whether you are working out in the gym or outside this summer, it can sometimes be hard to get through new workouts without straining a muscle, spraining a ligament, or hurting your back.  When something hurts, it is sometimes hard to differentiate whether ice or heat will make it better.  Ice and heat are easy, natural, and affordable ways to relieve pain. Here are a few tips and tricks on whether to use ice or heat: 

For arthritis pain, worn-away cartilage in your joints can cause pain, especially in your fingers, elbows, and knees.  It is best to use moist heat eyes chronically stiff joints and to relax tight muscles surrounding the area. For gout flare ups, ice can calm the flare-up and numb the pain with this inflammatory arthritis that is common in the big toe, ankle, and heel.

Headaches are caused by pain from nerves or blood vessels that are compressed in the head or from tension in muscles in the neck and back.  Ice will numb the throbbing head pain and an ice pack can be placed directly on the lower portion of the head and upper neck.  Moist heat can then be used on the upper back to relax the spasms in the upper trapezius in between the shoulder blades that are often full of trigger points that cause headaches.

Strains are pulled muscles or injured tendons, typically to areas like the thigh, back, and calves.  Ice eases inflammation, such as the redness, swelling, and tenderness, associated with these injuries.  Heat will ease the stiffness after the inflammation resolves, which is usually two or three days after the initial injury. Sprains are caused by stretching or tearing the ligaments in the joints, such as the knee, foot, and elbow.  The same pattern of icing and then heating after the inflammation subsides two to three days later should be followed.  

Tendinitis is the actor irritation to the tendons attached to the joints, such as the shoulder, wrist, or knee, which causes acute irritation.  Ice eases inflammation and numbs the pain.  Tendinosis occurs when the irritation becomes chronic and causes more stiffness in the tendons.  Heat relieves this stiffness once the irritation resolves.  

Ice seems cold, mean and uncomfortable when it comes to sports injuries.  Ice constricts the blood vessels, numbing the pain and relieving the inflammation.  Ice is also known to limit bruising.  Heat should never be used for acute injuries, since it increases inflammation and can delay healing.  Heat increases the blood flow, which relaxes tight muscles and relieves aching joints.  Ice and heat can be applied in a lot of ways, but it is recommended up to 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off.  Stay safe this summer, but if injuries happen, reference these handy tips for icing and heating injuries.  Also, don’t be afraid to contact our Licensed Massage Therapist, Stephanie Latawiec, to schedule an appointment to get you back in action and rehabilitate your sports injury.  You can contact her directly at (716)866-3261.

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