Ice and heat are a healing method often used in most physical therapy treatments for patients. According to OSR Physical therapy, ice and heat, techniques referred to as cryotherapy and thermotherapy, are approaches to help limit muscle swelling, pain, and tension relief. Ice and heat can be used in combinations or separately depending on the injury and severity of your doctor’s diagnoses.
It is advised to use ice during the initial stage of an injury (48-72 hours), which doctors refer to as an acute injury. Dr. Joseph Mercola elaborates in his article, “Ice works for injuries because it narrows your blood vessels, which helps prevent blood from accumulating at the site of injury, which will add to inflammation and swelling while delaying healing.” Effective use of ice can come from gel packs, ice wraps or direct ice that is wrapped in a towel or even placed in the traditional Ziploc bag. A popular injury treatment acronym to go by is R.I.C.E., which means rest, ice, compress, and elevate.
Normally, is used to relax those tight and stiffs muscles or joints. The goal is to make those tissues more soft and limber to prevent further hard tears or new injuries. It is ideal to use heat before a workout, daily stretching, or any physical activity and avoid heat to any swollen injuries. Orthopedic Surgery Associates clarifies, “Moist heat is more effective than dry heat as it penetrates deeper and has a better effect on muscles, joints, and soft tissue.” Examples of moist heat could be a hot soaked towel, hot tubs or heating packs.
It is important to not over treat with heat, given that heat increases your blood flow and can cause extra swelling. Also, keep in mind, ice left too long on the skin can result in frostbite or other parts of the body becoming injured as well. If the injury has worsened or unimproved after consistent treatment, contact a medical professional to provide you with a custom treatment plan for your particular injury.