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Heat or Ice: What to Use and When to Use It

Blog.heatoriceWhen people say “don’t sweat it,” they’re not talking about your injuries… or are they? Choosing between treating pain with heat or ice can seem like a guessing game, especially when everyone seems to have a different answer. But the doctors at Advantage Chiropractic clinic are here to set the record straight.

Before we dive into this, understand that heat and ice are relatively safe treatments. This means that even if you incorrectly treated an injury in the past, you likely didn’t worsen it – just maybe gave yourself unnecessary cold toes or sweaty shoulders.

Repeat after us: ice is for inflammation, shown by redness, swelling or restricted motion. This means that if you twist your ankle, are hurting after a car accident, have a bump or bruise or anything else involving redness and swelling, reach for an ice pack. These are also known as acute, or recent, injuries. “If you would take Advil for something, ice is probably a pretty good guess,” says Dr. Adams, D.A.C.O.

Ice restricts blood flow to the hurt area, calming inflammation and providing relief. Ice is a very safe treatment, with the only major risk being the possibility of “burning” your skin with prolonged exposure to ice. To safeguard against this, simply put a barrier between your skin and ice – a paper towel or washcloth works great.
Heat, on the other hand, does the opposite. It is great for dilating blood vessels, which can be helpful in stimulating blood flow to areas that have experienced lingering pain. It loosens up joints while bringing oxygen and nutrition to muscles. Heat works great for muscle spasms or tightness and also for degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis.

Pop Quiz:
It’s gameday in Auburn, and you are in charge of carrying the group’s cooler across campus to your tailgate. While carrying it, your shoulder begins to hurt. The next day, your shoulder is bruised, swollen and still bothering you.

Do you:
A) Load up on ice packs – Frozen peas from your freezer should do the trick
B) Soak in a hot bath and treat yourself with a heating pad or hot water bottle afterward.
C) What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Ignore the pain in solidarity with our surely-sore football players.

Did you answer A? If you did, we’re proud, and you’re gameday ready. Because the soreness in our quiz was associated with an acute injury, swelling and sharp pain, ice should offer relief. The cold will restrict blood flow, calming the inflammation and reducing swelling. Ice treatment should you feeling better in no time.

While heat and ice are both safe, easy and cheap solutions to minor injuries, they’re no substitute for visiting a professional. If your pain persists for more than 48 hours, make sure to give your chiropractors at Advantage Chiropractic Clinic a call.

1 Join the Conversation

  1. Ellene Kebede says
    Jul 19, 2018 at 4:04 PM


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