When should you apply ice or heat

One common mistake that most people make is not knowing when to apply heat or ice to an injury. People will use these two treatments at the wrong times and end up making injuries worse. 

Our physical therapy Omaha NE team wants to share some knowledge about when to apply ice or heat to the next time you have lower back pain

When to apply heat or ice

Heat therapy

Heat therapy is heat treatment that is used to help manage chronic pain. The warm temperatures help the muscles relax, reduce pain and decrease stiffness. How does applying heat help relieve pain? It helps increase the circulation of blood flow that helps relieve chronic pain

Types of heat therapy

There are two main types of heat therapy to choose from like dry and moist heat. Dry heat removes moisture from the skin. While moist heat adds moisture to the skin. You can choose to apply heat by using: 

  • Hot water bottles

  • Hot baths, showers or saunas

  • Gel and eclectic heating pads

  • Heated gel packs

When should you apply heat

It is recommended to apply heat when you have existing chronic pain or stiff muscles. This means that you have had this pain over time. You should apply heat for no more than 30 minutes at a time

When you should not apply heat

You want to avoid applying heat to acute injuries or inflamed areas. Adding heat can actually make an acute injury worse. In these conditions, it is better to apply ice. It is also recommended to not use heat if you have one of these conditions:

  • Diabetes

  • Dermatitis

  • Vascular diseases

  • Deep vein thrombosis

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)

Cold therapy 

Cold therapy is a cold treatment that is used to reduce the pain of acute injuries. The cold temperature helps reduce inflammation, swelling and relieve pain. How does applying ice help relieve pain? It helps reduce the blood flow and constricts blood vessels helping ease pain. 

The types of cold therapy

The great thing about cold therapy is that you do not need to buy new items. You can use things that are already in your freezer. Some common ways to apply cold therapy is by using: 

  • Ice

  • Ice packs 

  • Coolant sprays 

When should you apply ice

It is recommended to use ice when you have an acute injury. You want to apply ice on the first 72 hours of the injury. When your body has an acute injury, it increases the blood flow to that area that causes inflammation and results in pain. Ice helps reduce the pain, swelling and helps promote healing. 

When not to apply ice

Although icing can benefit your injuries, you want to avoid over icing. Do not leave ice on an injury for over 20 minutes, and always apply on top of a thin layer. It is also recommended that you should not use ice on stiff muscles or joints, old injuries and arthritis pains

Are you looking for physical therapy in Omaha NE?

Visit Wisniewski Chiropractic. We offer physical therapy that can help relieve pains and restore your body’s movements. Schedule your appointment with us today!