A common question asked by active people is "should I use ice or heat when I hurt from work, exercise or an injury?"
How would you describe it----does it hurt (ice) or is it stiff (heat)?
How long has this bothered you?---- is it new (ice) or have you had the same feeling for awhile (heat)?
A pain which is either intense, throbbing, stabbing or sharp may indicate either nerve pain or tissue inflammation. In these cases, ice is moe appropriate than heat.
Ice is generally recommended to be applied for 15-30 minutes with at least 30 minutes off. This guidelines, of course, is based on your discomfort, presence of nerve damage, lack of circulation and age.
Moist heat has more benefitis than dry heat. Moist heat packs may be purchased at surgical supply stores. They are heated in a container of hot water and then placed into varying amounts of towels. The moisture of the heating pack soaks deeper into tissue as it is conducted through the moisture of the muscle.
Moist heat may be applied between 20-30 minutes and removed for 30-60 minutes between applications.This guidelines, of course, is based on your discomfort, nerve damage, circulation and age. Make certain to have sufficient toweling material to avoid excessive heat.
General Rules and Suggestions
1. During the first 1-3 days of any new injury, use ice for 15-30 minutes several times a day. Ice usage may be extended for a few days based on severity, swelling and discomfort from the injury.
When in doubt, see your physician to eliminate the potential for more serious injuries.
2. After any injury follow the R I C E formula:
Rest the injury area; this may mean crutches, sling, splint etc.
Ice the area
Compress the area to reduce the amount of swelling
Elevate the injured arm or leg to reduce swelling and inflammation
3. If either ice or heat application is unusually irritating, discontinue use and seek medical attention.
4. Try to use moist heat, not dry heat. While dry heat does increase local circulation, it does so on a surface level. Heat creams irritate superficial nerve endings and result in increased local circulation; they are most benefical when used in conjunction with movement/exercise.
5. Ice packs may be made from ice cubes placed into a towel, crushed with a hammer and them placed into a plastic bag. Frozen bags of vegetables also work well.
This information should be used as a general guideline only and should not be considered as total treatment for any condition nor as a substitute for care by a health care professional.