Evidence-Based Health Care For Optimal Health & Functioning


“Do I use heat or do I use ice?” is a question commonly asked by anyone in pain. The answer lies primarily on the timing of the injury classifying it as acute or chronic.

Acute injuries are injuries that happen suddenly, commonly associated with a traumatic event and cause extreme pain for up to 72 hours. This could be a sprained wrist from a fall or ankle from miscalculating a step off a curb or uneven terrain.

Acute injuries are commonly comprised of pain, inflammation, swelling and tenderness to touch. This type of injury calls for ICE. The reasons for using ice is that it causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels) which leads to:

  • reduce inflammation
  • reduce pain perception
  • reduce blood flow
  • reduce metabolic rate

Ice can be applied in a variety of ways:

  • direct ice massage (ice in Styrofoam cup)
  • manufactured ice pack
  • zip-lock bag with ice
  • ice bath

Chronic conditions are a little different in nature. These are injuries which produce pain for usually greater than 3 months in duration from onset. Often, these types of disorders are due to untreated acute injuries such as a low back strain which results in residual low back pain months later. HEAT is the method of treatment here due to is vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) which leads to:

There are different methods to self remedy your chronic pain conditions at home. Heat with a flare up is the most common protocol. However, prior to activity heat should be used followed ice at completion of activity. You don’t want to apply ice before or heat after activity.

On days which no activity is being performed, you can use what is referred to as contrast therapy. This is the alternate application of heat and ice every 5 minutes. For example, 5 minutes of moist heat followed by 5 minutes of ice followed by another 5 minutes of heat. This is one cycle that can be completed  2-3 times a day.

Moist heat is the preferred method of heat to be used and can be used in a few different ways:

  • Hot shower
  • Hot  Tub
  • Moist hot pack (max 20 minutes – should be wrapped in a towel and never placed directly on skin)

If symptoms persists longer than usual or gets worse contact your health care provider.

Posted on March 28th, 2012 [Activity, Chiropractic, Exercise, Fitness, Golf, Health and Wellness, Injury, Pain, Sports, Uncategorized]