When it comes to managing pain and injury, which do you assume? Is it heat or ice that you reach for?
Using ice “cryotherapy” and heat “thermotherapy” are fantastic self-care options that are low in cost and in most cases safe to use. It is important to note that whilst neither is a strong drug, they may support minor pain management and in some cases assist in circulation and swelling reduction. As usual, any injury that is causing the individual discomfort should be assessed by a physiotherapist or GP.
Ice should be used on “fresh” injuries, those that are seemingly swollen, red and inflamed and stem from ligament sprains, muscle strains and even tendinitis. Ice primarily helps to numb the area, and prevent the injury swelling too much. Swelling, in itself, is your body limiting movement and therefore is not the worst thing to happen for recovery. Scientists have argued that ice is redundant, and favour other options instead; however for its cost-effective and the minor improvement it can make, ice is still worth the use.
COOL TIP: There should always be a barrier between skin and ice, whether it’s a sock, a tea-towel, or tape to ensure the skin is not burnt! Using cryotherapy, the “RICER” technique is best – Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. Referral.
Heat should be used on aches and pains, to help sooth stress and anxiety and works similarly to ice from the perspective of assisting in management, rather than curing. Heat is never an option for fresh injuries, as it causes the blood vessels to dilate, in short, your swelling will be getting a whole lot worse and usually the pain with it. This same dilation can be great for supporting recovery in more fibrous tissues such as ligaments, however this comes later. Heat is usually the go-to option for lower back pain too, due to the limited times that lower-back-pain is actually a fresh injury. If in doubt with lower back-pain, seek professional advice.
HOT TIP: A warm bath or shower can be the perfect remedy for an aching body after a long day at work, and a heat pack can be a convenient option for throughout the day when necessary.
Finally, if the ice or heat you are applying is increasing the pain, stop immediately and seek medical advice. It is not uncommon for injuries to be assumed as less than they actually are, and seeking support from a professional is always the safest form of injury assessment and management.
If you’d like some further information or have an injury concern, you can contact Progressive Sports & Spinal Physiotherapy today by either calling on (02) 4721 7798, emailing email@example.com or clicking here to book online for a thorough initial assessment.