ICE VERSUS HEAT
When treating soft tissue or joint injuries it is important to know when and why you use ice or heat.
Ice (0-48 hours post injury):
The first 48 hours after injury are crucial. When soft tissue is injured, the blood vessels are often damaged too, causing bleeding. Icing during this period can reduce bleeding, swelling, pain and stiffness.
The ice protocol that I use is to ice for 20 minute every hour for the first 4 hours followed by 20 minutes every 2 hours up to 24 hours, and 20 minutes every 4 hours from 24 – 48 hours.
To aid in the recovery ice should be used as part of the RICE treatment:
Rest – to reduce bleeding and inflammation
Ice – as above
Compression – can be applied during and after icing with a firm bandage.
Elevation – raise upper limbs above the heart and lower limbs above the pelvis.
In the first 72 hours following injury avoid HARM:
Heat – heat may increase bleeding and inflammation.
Alcohol – may mask your symptoms and therefore increase the risk of aggravating the injury.
Running – may cause further damage.
Massage – may cause further bleeding and swelling.
Heat (72 hours post injury):
At 72 hours post injury the bleeding and inflammation should have stopped and the tissue healing begins. Therefore we want to encourage blood flow to the injury site. Heat causes blood vessels to dilate (open), increasing the flow of blood. It has a soothing effect and helps to reduce pain and spasm.
Precautions when using ice and heat:
Don’t use ice packs or heat:
- Over open wounds or broken skin
- Over areas with poor sensation
- Over areas with poor circulation
- In the presence of infection
This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. If you have any questions please consult a health care professional.