To use ice or heat for an injury, that is the question. Well, here’s the answer: It depends!
Typically, ice should be your go-to if you have suffered an acute, or traumatic, injury, like a broken toe or ankle sprain. The ice will minimize bruising, numb the pain, and reduce muscle spasms, as well as inflammation. This is also helpful with conditions like tendinitis, and gout.
Pulled muscles and strained ligaments should be iced, as well -- and as often as possible for the first 48 hours -- but here’s the catch: once the inflammation has gone down in this type of injury, a switch to heat will relieve stiffness and increase blood flow to the area, helping out with the healing process. You must be certain there’s no longer any swelling, however, as inflammation involves bleeding in the tissues, and you don’t want heat to attract more blood and make the situation worse! Following the 48-hour rule is usually sufficient.
You should also grab the heating pad instead of the ice pack for chronic injuries, aches, and pains, especially prior to activity. The warmth relaxes tight muscles and tendons, and relieves aching joints, such as in the case of arthritis. It’s important to note that while ice should never be applied to a chronic injury prior to activity, it can be used afterward if the injury is aggravated and sore.
Final tips: remember to wrap ice in a towel so as not to apply it directly to your skin which can be harmful. Also, be sure to ice only 20 minutes at a time, and make sure your heating pad is only moderately warm.Hopefully this helps! If you’d like to learn more or you are experiencing foot or ankle pain, we can determine if other treatment options are necessary. Contact our Chandler or Gilbert office for an appointment by dialing (480) 963-9000.