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  • Writer's pictureAshwood Chiropractic

Should I use ice or heat?

Heat and Ice Therapy Many people use Heat and/or Ice therapy for pain relief and injuries all over the body, but do you know when to use which? Do you know how long to use Heat or Ice for? Do you know when to swap from one to another? We’ve put together a quick guide, to explain the best uses for Heat and Ice Therapy. HEAT Heat causes the blood vessels within the body to dilate and open up, increasing the blood flow through them. This is why your face goes pink when you are hot. Encouraging blood to an area can help with healing injuries and easing muscle spasms and stiffness. Heat should NOT be used on new injuries, or swollen areas. However, an exception to this rule is “recent lower back strain” – as this is often caused by muscle spasms rather than tissue damage, and therefore, would benefit from Heat therapy. How does it work? By increasing blood flow to a specific area of the body, it encourages healing with in the area, and encourages tight muscles to relax. However, we don’t want to overload the area, and too much heat can damage certain structures. 10-15 minutes of Heat over the affected area. Remove the Heat for a further 10-15 minutes. Repeat for a maximum of 3-4 times. How best to apply the Heat? Many people use Deep Heat, or other warming/muscle creams. Whilst these can help to regulate pain, they do not have a physiological effect on the structures underneath the skin. Therefore, we recommend that patients use a Hot Water Bottle, or a purpose designed heat/wheat bag. Caution! NEVER apply Heat directly to the skin! This can cause irritation and burns, and damage underlying structures. NEVER leave Heat on the skin for a prolonged period of time! NEVER use Heat over an open wound, graze or new injury. If you experience any of the following you should remove the Heat immediately and not reapply. · Burning sensation · Excessive swelling · Irritation of the skin ICE Ice causes the blood vessels within the body to constrict and restrict blood flow through them. This is why your fingers go white or lose colour in the cold weather. Whilst this doesn’t sound like a good thing – this process can be used to our advantage in certain circumstances: · On recent injuries · Following Chiropractic Treatment (especially deep tissue work) · Swollen Joints How does it work? By restricting the blood flow to a specific area of the body, it prevents the area from swelling or becoming inflamed, both of which can be painful. However, we don’t want to stop blood flow to an area, we just want to limit or restrict it, for a short period of time. Therefore, ice should be used for short bursts of time: 10-15 minutes of Ice over the affected area ® Remove the Ice for a further 10-15 minutes ® Repeat for a maximum of 3-4 times. How best to apply the Ice? Ice should not be applied directly to the skin, but should be wrapped in a towel, cloth or fluffy sock! Ice can be a bag of frozen vegetables, a freezer/sandwich bag filled with ice cubes (make sure to tie/close the bag tight prior to use) or a purpose designed Ice pack (available in pharmacy’s and supermarkets). For best results, place a slightly damp cloth over the area to be iced, and apply ice over the cloth. Use either your hands or a bandage to apply firm pressure. If it is a recent injury, we advise you raise the area being iced – so that it is above the level of your heart. For example, to ice your ankle, lie on your back, with your ankle raised up and resting on several thick pillows. This gives any excess fluid from the swelling, a chance to drain through the lymph system. Caution! NEVER apply Ice directly to your skin! This can cause irritation, or even burns to the skin, especially if you have sensitive skin. NEVER leave Ice on the skin for a prolonged period of time! This can damage your skin, nerves and superficial blood vessels. NEVER use Ice over an open wound, graze or area of skin where you have numbness or poor circulation. If you experience any of the following symptoms whilst using Ice, you should remove the Ice immediately and not reapply. · Skin turning blue or white · Skin becoming blotchy or painful · Excessive numbness/loss of sensation

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