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Should I Use Ice or Heat for Injuries?

person holding their knee in painIf you’ve ever sprained an ankle, slipped and fallen down, or gotten hit while engaging in sports, you likely applied ice to your injury—as you should have. Ice is best used in situations where it’s crucial to control tissue inflammation to reduce damage and address pain.

“I tell patients to apply ice instead of heat, because wherever you have pain, you have inflammation which is red, hot, and swollen,” said Dr. Owais.

While heat may feel good when you put it on, it causes an increase in inflammation in the body. Applying heat when applying ice can worsen your injury.

How Often & for How Long?

The sooner you can apply ice to an injury, the better, but you have about a 24-hour window to get ice on the area of injury. To reduce swelling and minimize pain, apply ice to the injured area for 20 minutes every two hours, as long as it’s hurting.

Make sure to protect your skin from the cold, such as a towel. You could also use a bag of frozen vegetables or a cold washcloth.

When Is Heat Advisable?

Dr. Owais always tells patients to use ice for an injury, unless they have a frozen shoulder. “If you want to put heat on, don’t use direct heat. Take an Epsom salt bath instead of putting direct heat on you,” she said.

Should I Ice After Getting Adjusted?

Dr. Owais always recommends ice after a chiropractic adjustment, because the force of the adjustment itself will cause some inflammation when you do it. That’s why she always tells patients to ice afterward if they have any discomfort. However, if you don’t experience discomfort after an adjustment, you don’t need to ice it.

“I also want patients to know that if their discomfort is muscle-related, it will get better with ice. If it’s not related to a muscle, it won’t get better with ice, so we can determine if something else is going on,” said Dr. Owais.

For more information about icing an injury, contact San Jose Chiropractic today.

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