Do I use heat or ice when I hurt myself?
The answer – it depends!
Always use ice when you have an acute injury that is hot to the touch, has any redness or swelling. This may have occurred from rolling your ankle, spraining your wrist or a muscle strain.
When using Ice Therapy – the best principle to follow is the RICER Method:
R= Rest the area
I= Ice for 20 minutes every 2 hours (for the first 48 hours)
C= Compression around the area using an elastic bandage to help reduce swelling
E= Elevate the area as best you can, trying to have the affected area above your heart as often as possible eg; for a rolled ankle try to rest it up on a chair as often as possible
R= Referral to see a GP or Physiotherapist if the pain is strong and/or you are unable to move the injured body part
You may need to keep using ice for many days or weeks after an acute muscle or tendon issue.
Icing it especially at the end of the day, as the area has become irritated during the day with various activities, is a great idea.
Again, put the ice on for 20 minutes. Always have a barrier between your skin and the ice.
This will avoid giving yourself an “ice burn”, which can be quite nasty. A barrier is usually a single damp layer of material laid on the skin. It could be a thin damp cloth, thin clothing, or the like.
Never lay over ice or compress your weight onto the ice. This may reduce your blood circulation in the local area. If the cold builds up to a level that can damage the skin, your blood vessels cant shunt the excessive cold away from the area. This again can give you a nasty “ice burn”.
So when can you use heat?
Heat is great to use for tight or tense muscles – especially around the neck or back, or sore leg/arms muscles the day after sport.
You can use heat cream or a warm wheat or heat bag.
Never put heat on an injury that is already hot and swollen. Follow the RICER regime instead to reduce the heat and swelling.
myPhysioSA Partner Physiotherapist