ICING & HEAT PROTOCOL
Applying ice to injuries, aka cryotherapy, has long been used as an inexpensive and safe way to help alleviate pain and speed recovery times.
Icing in the first 2-3 days following a new injury, or an aggravation of an old injury, is especially helpful in reducing inflammation. Inflammation of soft tissue is present with most injuries. The benefits of reducing inflammation by icing include: decreased pain, decreased muscle spasm, and faster healing times.
A rule of thumb for icing protocol is, the sharper the pain the more you should use ice therapy.
What is the best way to ice therapy?
- As a general rule, larger body areas must be iced longer than smaller areas to achieve the same soft tissue cooling. A low back may take 15-20 minutes to cool, while a hand may only take 5-10 minutes.
- Ice applications may include ice baths, frozen gel packs, bags filled with ice, or direct massage to an area with ice.
- To make an ice pack simply fill a secure ziplock bag with half water and half rubbing alcohol and place in the freezer.
*Icing should NOT be performed simultaneously with topical pain relievers, such as BioFreeze.
Heat is generally used for chronic injuries or injuries that have no inflammation or swelling. Sore, stiff, nagging muscle or joint pain is ideal for the use of heat therapy. Athletes with chronic pain or injuries may use heat therapy before exercise to increase the elasticity of joint connective tissues and to stimulate blood flow. Heat can also help relax tight muscles or muscle spasms. Don’t apply heat after exercise. After a workout, ice is the better choice on a chronic injury.
You should never apply heat to any acute injuries or injuries that show signs of inflammation.
If your injury does not improve (or gets worse) within 48 hours call Dr. Radcliffe’s office at (815) 838-9441
What is the best way to use heat therapy?
- Moist heat is best, try using a hot wet towel. You can buy special athletic hot packs or heating pads if you use heat often. Never leave heating pads on for more than 20 minutes at a time or while sleeping, you risk burning your skin.
- Safely apply heat to an injury 15 to 20 minutes at a time and use enough layers between your skin and the heating source to prevent burns.