When to Use Heat or Ice for Physical Therapy

clinicalferenczi therapy

Among the most common questions a chiropractor gets from patients suffering from serious pain in muscles and joints is whether to use ice or heat to try to alleviate it. In fact, these two approaches are quite different and certainly not interchangeable. Don’t simply decide on either, because you have a heating pad at hand instead of an ice pack or vice versa. Different injuries and conditions call for different treatment and in case you cannot consult your chiropractor or other healthcare provider right away, you should stick to a few principles.

Of course, a professional chiropractor’s opinion is indispensable in most cases, so even if you are not regularly visiting one, browse availability for chiropractor 37409 appointment online if you live in Hamilton County, TN, for professional advice, even if you are not planning to visit the specialist on a regular basis. If you are unable to contact a chiropractor or another licensed professional, follow these guidelines in your choice of therapy.

Heat treatment

Heat is generally used to open up your blood vessels and increase blood circulation, which in turn helps relax your muscles and soothes pain of different origin. If you are suffering from stiff joints or tight muscles, you can effectively use heat to fight these symptoms and feel short-term relief. In addition, some tension-based headaches are alleviated with heat. If, on the other hand, your pain is brought about as a result of an injury, you should always wait between 48 and 72 hours before applying heat to the affected area and avoid heat therapy altogether if there is swelling associated with the injury. Some safety measures when using heat therapy include not exposing your skin to heat directly, avoiding treatment when there is lack of sensitivity in the injured area, waiting at least an hour in between treatments and staying away from heat therapy if you are suffering from diabetes or other conditions that result in poor blood circulation.

Ice treatment

Generally, ice therapy aims to alleviate swelling and pain caused by an injury by decreasing the blood flow to the affected area and helps prevent inflammation. Unlike heat, ice therapy should be applied as soon as the injury has occurred for best results. A lot of sport related injuries are treated with ice packs, including sprains, stretched muscles and tendons, etc. Ice is also effective for soothing migraine-related headaches. Similarly to heat therapy, you should not apply an ice pack for more than 20 minutes or directly to an injury or exposed skin. You should also wait at least an hour before repeating the treatment and should always regularly make sure that your skin is handling the treatment and not blistering.

Out of the two, heat therapy has a higher potential of negatively affecting your overall condition and should be applied with caution. This is why, if you don’t have access to a licenced chiropractor or another healthcare professional, and you are not sure exactly which therapy to apply, it is better to risk it in favor of ice.