Should I Use Ice or Heat for Pain?
When to use ICE: Ice should ALWAYS be used for an acute injury or trauma to any other area of the body. Ice is a potent vasoconstrictor: cold causes the muscles of the body those lining the walls of our blood vessels, to constrict decreasing the swelling and pain associated with the body’s inflammatory response. As the vessels constrict, fewer inflammatory mediators seep into the area. In the case of musculoskeletal injuries, decreasing the inflammatory response decreases pain and prevents hyperimmune Une response in the area. Ice should be applied at 15-20 minute intervals only, with at least an hour and a half in between icings.
Ice should be used for the first 48-72 hours following injury. Never use heat during this time.
Ice can also be used to alleviate pain associated with chronic back pain. Ice should be used after exercise, especially strenuous exercise, but NEVER before stretching or exercising. As ice causes increased muscle constriction and tension, its use before physical activity can lead to injury.
When to use HEAT:
Heat is used to relax and relieve tension associated with muscle stiffness and tension. Heat is best used to treat chronic, consistent back, neck and/or other musculoskeletal pain.
Heat can be applied before stretching and exercising to eliminate muscular stiffness and spasms. Warm towels or compresses work best.
These are just basic rules of thumb for treating back pain with heat or ice. If you have been diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, always discuss heat and ice therapies with your specialist. If you find that ice and/or heat seem to intensify your pain, avoid its use and consult with treating practitioner.
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