Heat and Ice Therapies — Done Properly — Enhance Recovery

ice packGenerally, heat is for muscles and ice is for injuries. The two treatments are simple ones that, when used correctly, help you manage both your pain and your recovery. Using these treatments wrong can aggravate injured areas.

Heat can effectively relieve pain after the acute phase of an injury has passed, which is usually after 48-72 hours.

When applied to an injury, heat increases blood flow, decreases muscle spasms, increases elasticity and flexibility, decreases stiffness and relieves pain. It’s a great way to get your body warmed up and prepared to accept the exercise or stretching you’ll do.

Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using a hot pack. You should use the hot pack cover or towel between the pack and skin, and heat for 10-20 minutes. If you feel a burning sensation, take the pack off immediately and add more layers between it and you.

If an area is red, swollen or inflamed, or if an injury as just occurred, ice cools it down and helps prevent inflammation.

While inflammation is a normal, natural response to an injury, it’s also painful. Icing helps keep it in check.

Applied after exercising or playing sports, ice helps cool down and calm muscles to prevent inflammation, and reduces muscle spasms.

Ice is also an excellent treatment for chronic injuries, especially after prolonged use or exercising.

For proper icing, position yourself comfortably and elevate the part of the body you’re icing above your heart to decrease swelling.

Use a thin layer of cloth — like a pillowcase or towel — between you and the ice pack.

Leave the ice pack on for 10-20 minutes. Do not exceed 20 minutes.

Heat and ice are simple, inexpensive and worthwhile treatments that will ease your pain and maximize your recovery when used properly. If not done properly, heat can make inflammation worse and ice can make muscle spasms worse.

Be sure to talk with your therapist about which treatment is right for you.

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