Benefits of Ice and Heat


Ice and Heat

Benefits of Ice and Heat

Whenever someone gets injured, people always say, “Go home and ice it.” But why is that considered the appropriate treatment? And when might you use heat, instead?

This week the Be Better challenge is to use ice and heat for injury and workout recovery. In order to receive the maximum benefits of these two treatments, one must understand the appropriate time to use them.

Easy way to remember: Ice is for injury; heat is for pain.

The problem – and the most confusing part of that statement –– is that injury is painful. Well, here is the difference between injury and pain.

Let’s say you sprained your ankle. There is bleeding under the tissue, which causes swelling, which increases pain. This is when you ice, because ice constricts veins and reduces blood flow to the injured area, thus reducing inflammation. It is most important to apply ice for 20 to 30 minutes, ideally within five to 10 minutes after being injured. This should be repeated every couple of hours for one to two days.

Ice can also be used during recovery from the injury and the reintroduction of exercise. The benefit here is the same: reducing blood flow to the iced region, thus reducing inflammation.

So when should we use heat? Heat should only be applied to an injury older than 48 hours, with the exception of lower back muscle spasms. Heat increases blood flow to an area, helping to repair damaged muscles. It also relieves pain and stiffness.

Not too cold and not too hot

Make sure the ice isn’t too cool again your skin. Put a thin layer of cloth between the injured area and the ice. Skin should not be turning pink or red.

If you’re using heat, make sure it isn’t too hot, and don’t leave it on longer than 20 minutes. Make sure you have a thin layer of cloth between the heat and your skin.

Fun fact from WebMD: Try Hydrotherapy

Try a different type of ice and heat, WebMD suggests:

“Showers and baths aren't just for mornings. When you're hurting, stand under or settle into warm water for a few minutes to help soothe and relax you. (If you're over 70 or have heart problems, check with your doctor before getting into a hot tub.)

Try a warm shower or bath before you exercise to help loosen joints and muscles.

Use cool water after exercise to help calm deep, burning pain and reduce inflammation.

Keep in mind, a bath can be for your whole body or just a part.”