Using ice or heat

injuriesIce is for injuries — calming down damaged tissues that are inflamed, red, hot and swollen. The inflammatory process is a healthy, normal, natural process … that also happens to be incredibly painful. Icing is mostly just a mild, drugless way of controlling the pain of inflammation.

Swelling is a necessary component in the first phase of the healing process. Swelling is controlled by the body’s internal systems to attain homeostasis.

Chill it. Ice is best in the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury because it reduces inflammation, says E. Anne Reicherter, PT, DPT, PhD, associate professor of Physical Therapy at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.  She says. After 48 hours, you can switch to heat if you prefer. Whether you use heat or ice — take it off after about 20 minutes to give your skin a rest.

Take an ice pack and apply to area. If you do not have an ice pack you may take ice cubes and cover with cotton or gauze and apply. Continue for 15 minutes and repeat as needed.

Homemade Ice packs: 1 part rubbing alcohol to 3 parts water, gets really cold, but never hardens so you can manipulate it.

Heat is for muscles — taking the edge off the pain of whole muscle spasms and trigger points (localized spasms, or muscle knots), and for easing psychological stress (which can be a major factor in many pain problems).

Heat may also be used to aid relaxation, pain relief, and muscle stiffness. Microwavable gel packs, heating pads, warm baths and showers, whirlpools, down quilts, long underwear, and paraffin baths are examples of heat sources.

Important Notes

  • Avoid prolonged exposure to heat sources that could cause burns and check your skin periodically
  • Do not go to sleep with a heating pad on. The local application of ice can decrease pain, muscle spasms and swelling.
  • Frozen gel packs, ice packs, and packages of frozen vegetables are examples of ice sources. Place a light towel between your skin and the ice pack and leave the pack on the area for approximately 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Check your skin periodically. If the area being treated turns white or blue, discontinue treatment immediately.

You must eliminate or correct perpetuating factors. Some people have one leg that is shorter than the other, differences in their hips or spinal rotation that can contribute to pain.

In a Neuromuscular Therapy session pressure is applied with the aim of normalizing muscle tone. Pain can manifest itself as ischemia, trigger points, nerve compression, biomechanical (muscular activity) dysfunction and postural distortion. The quest is how to release it appropriately.