Heat or Ice?

When it comes to an injury should you apply ice or heat?

I’ve had this question many times over the years, so here are some basic guidelines for you:

Acute injuries (Involving swelling. Example: ankle sprain): Ice. The main reason for cooling is to limit inflammation and swelling. Ice is helpful for at least 48 hours after the injury occurs, so keep applying it. Use an icepack or simply put a bunch of ice cubes in a ziploc and apply for 10-15 minutes every few hours.

Chronic injuries (No swelling. Example: shin splints): Heat. Right before your workout apply heat to the affected area for about 15 minutes to warm it up and reduce stiffness. You can do so by using a heat pack or simply a towel soaked in warm water. If you feel soreness after the workout, try if icing reduces the pain.

These are only rough guidelines. As always, listen to your body! If symptoms persist, swelling doesn’t go down within a few days or the pain is too much, pay a visit to your friendly doctor.

[Source: Self Magazine, August 2008, p. 92]

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Photography by Mary Sylvester.