Heat and ice are great ways to help relieve pain for a particular injury or ailment. Have you ever wondered which one is better for your specific problem? Ice should be used when trying to treat acute injuries in which you want to decrease swelling or inflammation. When ice is placed on the site that is inflamed, it constricts the blood vessels to that area. This helps to numb the pain that is felt and decreases any bruising that may occur. Gout, strains/sprains (only when inflammation is present, typically first 3 weeks after injury) and tendinitis are some examples of when ice should be used over heat.
Ice or Heat?
When heat is placed on the site of injury it increases blood flow to that body part. Blood vessels dilate and relax which helps to loosen the muscles and relieve aching joints. Arthritis, tendinosis, spasms and strains/sprains once inflammation has been managed, are great examples of when heat is the answer.
It is important to know that applying heat to an area of swelling will increase blood flow and can make the swelling even worse. This is why heat is applied when the inflammation has gone down.