Before using heat, ask yourself the following questions:
- Has your injury healed?
- Are your muscles tight and tender?
- Is your pain located in your joints or muscles?
If your injury is new, ice may be the answer. Ice can help to decrease swelling and bleeding, and can reduce bruising caused by trauma. Ice isn't only for new injuries, however: it can numb sensitive areas and decrease pain sensations caused by chronic conditions as well.
Ice can be an effective pain reliever for many chronic pain conditions, including:
A Little of Both? Combining Ice and Heat Treatments for Pain
In our therapy clinic, we often use both heat and ice to treat pain, with a little exercise in the middle. You can apply heat to a muscle to warm it up, stretch and strengthen it, and then finish it off with a little ice to cool it down. It's not exactly a spa treatment, but it helps many of our patients tolerate the exercise that will benefit them.
Belanger, Alain-Yvan. "Evidence-Based Guide to Therapeutic Physical Agents" Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2003
Gould, Harry J. "Understanding Pain: What it Is, Why it Happens and How It’s Managed" New York: AAN Press 2007