Should we ice or heat to recover from an injury? This is a question that all athletes and trainers have been asking for a long time. If you have ever seen the great 90’s movie, Rookie Of The Year, you know that some people have an interesting take on the recovery approach….Now we all know heating up ice cubes is ridiculous and won’t work, but Icy Hot products are one of the most popular recovery products in the market. They are great for aches and pains, but there are some injuries where heating or icing could actually cause added harm.
Exercising to stay healthy and improve your fitness is always great, but unfortunately at some point you will run into an injury. It’s to be expected when you are trying to push yourself to make improvements to your body and health. Set backs and injuries can be expected when training, but the good thing is that there are plenty of options out there to treat any injury. The bad news is that there is so many options out there that it can be confusing on which ones to use. So instead of trying to pick out the right product at the local pharmacy, let’s get back to the basics.
When to Ice an injury:
Ice should be used on acute injuries. These are injuries that involve swelling or bruising. Ice is almost always the answer to any fresh injury. It’s primary role is to help slow down and reduce any swelling and inflammation. Examples of injuries to ice:
- Rolled ankles/joints
- Freshly pulled muscles
- Impact injuries (hit by pitch in baseball, tackles in football, etc.)
Always remember, when it comes to icing an injury that you do not forgot the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).
When to Heat an Injury:
Heat should be applied to injuries that involve tight muscles, spasms, and chronic pain. The key to heating injuries is to improve blood flow and loosen muscles. The key to recovery with heat will be stretching after heating. Here are a few examples of injuries to heat:
- Back Spasms
- Lingering pain in muscles (not freshly pulled muscles)
- Stress Headaches and neck pain
It is important to not mix these up. If you were to switch ice or heat on these injuries, you could be making the injuries worse. Icing a spasm would cause more tightness and pain. Heating a rolled ankle would increase the blood flood to the area and increase the swelling.
Please make sure to go see a Physician for serious or lingering injuries. Major injuries require expert opinions and testing. Icing a torn ACL would be great for pain management and reducing swelling, but you will need surgery. Let’s hope you never have to experience that example or one like it.
Best of luck out there in your path to a fit and health life. Remember that small injuries will occur, but that is no need to quite or give up. Embrace the recovery time and hit the ground running once the pain is manageable or completely gone.