Ice or Heat – A Quick Refresher

ice or heat for injuriesIce or Heat for Injuries & Sore Muscles–

Regardless of your fitness level, it’s going to happen at some point. Sore muscles and various injuries such as strains, sprains and pulls. Although we’ve all heard it a hundred times, it’s easy to forget exactly when it’s best to use ice and when it’s best to use heat. Or both. Here’s a refresher on using ice or heat for those nagging maladies.

Two types of injuries

There are two types of injuries - acute and chronic. Acute injuries are immediate injuries that cause noticeable pain quickly. Acute injuries typically result from mishaps including twists, falls, sprains or impact. So an ankle sprain or strain falls into this category.

Chronic injuries are more common to most people, such as muscle soreness, stiff joints, etc. These injuries and subsequent pain tend to arise slowly over time.

Ice Treatment

Ice is generally best for acute injuries, such as an ankle twist or shin splints. More specifically, if you’ve incurred an injury within the past 48 hours which involves swelling, ice packs can help reduce swelling around the injury.

Ideally it’s best to get ice on the injury as early as possible; doing so will help decrease swelling and aid in reducing the pain. Ice should not be left in place any longer than 20 minutes at a time.

Heat Treatment

Heat is typically used for chronic or nagging conditions such as sore muscles, pulled muscles, etc. Heat helps relax muscle and tissue and increases blood circulation in the affected area. So warm wraps, heating pads, etc are great for this type of problem. However, it’s advisable to avoid using heat immediately after your activity.


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