TO ICE OR HEAT: THAT IS A GOOD QUESTION! Here is the answer you may have been looking for:
ICE: Ice can be a very effective form of treatment, especially when applied immediately after injury. Ice permits your body to heal quickly in two ways: it promotes even greater blood circulation than heat, and it numbs the pain so that you can move the injured area. The latter is beneficial because the best healing takes place when you actively move your injured part. Movement allows the new-forming tissue to remain pliable and healthy. The most amazing fact about this kind of treatment is that it drastically cuts the length of recovery time. Athletic trainers who use ice report that athletes who might have been out for the season can return to the field within one or two weeks after injury. In order to benefit from ice you must use it correctly. For any of the techniques below the basic idea is the same: chill the injured area for about six to twenty minutes, or until it gets numb. Then begin to move it, starting with small movements and gradually increasing your range of motion. Remember to move gently, and without putting weight on the injury. When the numbness wears off and you start feeling the pain again, apply the ice and repeat the whole procedure. It is the movement part of the ice therapy that makes it so effective. Moving stimulates proper healing by increasing blood circulation and preventing abnormal scar tissue from forming.
Ice Massage: Massage the injured area directly with ice. You can use ice cubes or make an ice form that is easy to hold in a paper cup or juice can. Work the ice gently on and around the injured part. Keep the ice moving for about twenty minutes before each set of exercises. If you leave bare ice on your skin in one place for too long, it can burn your skin.
Ice Pack: This method is useful for injuries involving severe pain or swelling. Make a pack by putting crushed ice between two towels or filling an ice pack you buy at a drugstore with ice cubes. (You may also purchase frozen peas and use them as an ice pack). Leave it on for 15-20 minutes. You can exercise the area either with or without the ice pack on.
Words of Caution: Ice therapy is generally a safe and effective form of treatment, but as with any treatment, it is not recommended under certain conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaudís disease, allergy to cold, diabetes, or a rheumatic disease etc. If you are in doubt, itís a good idea to check with your doctor first.
If you decide to use ice therapy, do not attempt any strenuous activity while you are numb from the ice. You could hurt yourself even more. The pain may be numbed but the injury is still there. In fact, a cold ligament or tendon is less flexible than it would be under normal circumstances and can be seriously injured, so be sure to move your injured part gently.
HEAT: Heat has been used as a form of treatment for pain and injury for hundreds of years. What heat does is increase blood circulation in muscles, tendons, and ligaments that are close to the skinís surface. This speeds the healing process by increasing the supply of food and oxygen needed to repair damaged tissue. Heat is given in a variety of ways: with electric devices, water, and preheated materials such as hot packs. Heat is useful for very minor strains where there is no swelling; for sore, tense muscles; and in some cases, for temporarily easing pain. Application of heat cannot help painful scar tissue, inflammation and swelling, or pressure on a nerve from a ruptured disc. This is not to say warm baths, hot packs and heat lamps are not helpful adjuncts to effective treatment, but they are usually only marginally effective by themselves.Ē( Ben Benjamin Ph.D with Gale Borden, M.D. Listen to your Pain. Penguin Books 1984)