Do I Ice or Heat My Injury?

Since the beginning of time (or at least since we can remember), icing an injury makes it feel better. We also know how great heating pads can be when we’re in pain.

So which one is it? Should we ice an injury? Should we apply heat? Why is there so much contradictory advice from friends and family?

The purpose of this blog is to clarify some of the confusion.

When to ice an injury:

Ice is recommended for severe injuries or trauma, such as:

– Sprains and strains
– Torn muscles
– Bruising after falling or getting hit by an object

Icing will somewhat alleviate the pain and help reduce swelling. It’s also accessible on most occasions. From a freezer to a cooler at the soccer field, chances are that someone will have ice or an ice pack handy.

That said, never apply ice directly on a wound, since this could cause freeze burns. Wrapping the ice in cloth is the best course of action.

When to use heat treatments:

This type of home remedy is recommended for chronic pains, such as:

– Muscle soreness due to exercise
– Pain from repetitive movements at work
– Joint pain from arthritis

In these instances, heating treatment will help muscles relax and increase blood flow. That being said, make sure to quickly test the heating temperature with your fingertips before applying on your skin. It’s easy to overestimate time when using a microwave, and the last thing you need when suffering from muscle pain is to get burned.

How Long Should You Ice or Heat an Injury?

When icing an injury, the length of time will depend on where the injury occurred (typically, 10 to 20 minutes is enough time). Once you feel your injured body part get numb, stop icing it.

When using heating pads, 15 to 20 minutes is enough time. If you’re using an electric pad, set an alarm as a reminder to turn it off (especially if there’s a chance you might fall asleep).

Something that’s crucial to keep in mind is that sometimes, what may seem like a minor injury may turn out to be a more serious issue. For example, you may feel pain after a run and think it’s muscle soreness, only to find out that it’s bursitis.

Other times, even when in excruciating pain, people choose to tough it out and hope that it’ll go away on its own. But if you have a muscle or ligament tear, you’ll need medical treatment to avoid serious complications, such as post-traumatic arthritis.

Schedule an Appointment With Alexander Orthopedics

If you’ve been using heating or icing home remedies but you are not getting better, you may have a more serious issue. Alexander Orthopedics is the premier orthopedic practice in Tampa Bay. Let us take a look at your injury for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Call us today to schedule an appointment.