I work out hard, most days of the week. The farther away from 25 I get, the more injuries and chronic aches and pains I experience. Lately, it seems something always hurts.
I’m never actually sure when to apply heat to an injured area and when to use ice.
I set out to get the information from “Dr. Google”, my go-to source for all things medical.
Acute pain is of rapid onset, and can be short lived.
Chronic pain develops more slowly, and is persistent and long lasting.
Acute injuries are generally sudden, sharp and occur immediately after some sort of trauma or impact. They are often accompanied by pain, tenderness, redness, swelling and inflammation.
Chronic injuries can be slow to develop, and the pain often comes and goes. They are often the result of overuse, but could be caused by an acute injury that was not properly treated.
Cold therapy, or ice is considered the best treatment for acute injuries, because it constricts the blood vessels and reduces swelling
Ice can also be effective for some overuse injuries as well. For example if a runner experiences knee pain after running, ice can prevent or reduce the inflammation if used after each run. ( bingo!)
To ice an injury, wrap the ice in a towel and place it on the affected area for 10 minutes at a time. From personal experience with runner’s knee, I’ve found a small bag of frozen vegetables such as peas or corn are perfect, because they allow the “ice pack” to conform to the entire knee area.
Heat is recommended for injuries that have no swelling or inflammation, such as stiff, sore muscles. Heat can also be applied pre-workout, to increase joint elasticity and stimulate blood flow. It is also helpful in relaxing tight muscles or relieving muscle spasms. ( my computer neck, for example?)
It is not recommended to use heat immediately after a workout.
Moist heat is optimal, so hot, wet towels can be used. Heat packs or heating pads can also be used for 20 minutes or less. Never go to sleep with a heating pad on.
While heat and ice can be very helpful in treating injuries and muscle pain, it is advisable to see a real live doctor for treatment.
photo: Glasshouse Images