Ice or heat? This is one of the most frequently asked questions regarding injury management following an acute or slow developing chronic injury. While ice packs and heating pads can be found in almost every household, how do you know which to use and when?
The simple rule is that to promote healing, ice, along with compression and elevation of the soft tissue injury site, is commonly used for acute and recent injuries (less than 48 hours old). The old adage “R.I.C.E.” for “Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation” serves as a quick treatment reminder of how to take care of an acute injury, such as ankle sprains, contusions, jammed fingers, re-aggravated shin splints or plantar fasciitis. Recommendations for sprains and strains includes stopping activity to the damaged area, followed by the early and often application of ice (in combination with compression and elevation) for 15-20 minutes – any longer and the cold temperatures can damage to the skin tissues (even frostbite). Icing treatments can be done repeatedly, but it is imperative to allow the injury site to warm for approximately 45 minutes and return to a normal sensation before applying ice again. Overuse injuries in athletes can benefit from ice treatments after activity as a way to control inflammation.
The application of a heat treatment should be used for chronic conditions to stimulate blood flow to an injured site in that it assists to help relax and loosen up the damaged tissues. However, heat should not be used after exercise nor on an acute injury.
So now that spring has sprung and we are heading straight into summer, the desire to get outside and be more active also arrives. Remember that you don’t have to be an athlete to get injured! Injuries can come doing anything – tripping on the steps, hauling in bags of dirt for your garden, wiping out on your bike ride to the store, or getting kicked in the shin while playing ‘rec’ soccer. So be sure to reach for the ice first!
Contact SIRC for more information on sport injury!