Hot and cold therapy are great, and can really help in times of injury, spasm or aches – but which one? And does it really make that much difference?
In short yes, it can make conditions worse and cause more pain if you don’t make the right choice!
Ice should be applied in cases of acute injury, and old injuries that become inflamed for example after activities. The ice will help reduce swelling and pain in the area, and whilst swelling is an important part of the healing process; our bodies can get a little over enthusiastic and swelling hurts!
You wouldn’t usually want to apply ice to the back or neck as in most cases this will induce further spasm and cause more pain. There is guidance to say if you really don’t get on with heat, and ice feels ok – go for it!
Heat is called for in times of muscle spasm, aches and chronic conditions where you want to encourage blood flow and create calming in the area.
So if you’re aching from a tough gym session or someone who suffers from a rheumatic condition, reach for the hot water bottle!
Remember – everything in moderation!
Both can burn, never apply heat or ice directly onto bare skin.
10 minutes should be plenty long enough for ice, when the area begins to go slightly numb remove the ice and allow the area to heat naturally, then re-apply.
This process should be done for the first 48 hours of injury.