Many people are unsure when to use ice or when to use heat on a problem. Always check with your practitioner, before using either ice or heat.
Cold is generally used on acute /new injuries for the relief of pain. Cold must be used for the first 72 hours following an injury. Cold is used on swelling, bruises, sprains, strains, headaches and minor burns.
Heat is used to aid recovery from injury, alleviate pain, cramps, stiffness and muscle tension. Heat is also used to help relieve osteo-arthritic conditions, (i.e. low back stiffness in the morning after you get up).
Although there are exceptions to the rule, the basics are:
Do not use ice before sporting activities or if you have circulatory disorders.
Use a cold pack or a “packet of peas” on the area. Wrap the pack in another towel and wet the towel the size of the painful area to conduct the cold.
For Sprains and Strains - Acute injuries which occur suddenly during an activity—apply for 20 minutes, leave off for 10 minutes repeat for approximately 2 hours.
Chronic injuries - apply for up to 30 minutes, approximately every 2 hours after activities that could aggravate the area.
For Pain relief- Apply for 4-5 minutes every 20 minutes for as long as pain persists.
Do not use heat:
where there is bruising, internal bleeding or if a clot or thrombosis is suspected;
if you have diabetes or circulatory problems;
if you have nerve damage or sensitive skin;
on open wounds;
if you are pregnant.
A hot pack or a hot towel (wet a towel ,wring out and microwave for 2 minutes, wrap in a dry towel) can be placed on the area for 5—20 minutes. Wrap the hot pack in a towel before using.
Gently stretching the area during and after the hot packs can help.
Please consult your practitioner for further advice. This information is intended as a guide only. This information is not intended as medical advice, it is provided solely for information and educational purposes. Please consult a health care professional if you have any health problems.