Using ice and heat can be a great way to treat an injury. The question is, when do you use ice versus when to use heat? Learning the function of each and how they effect your body can help you decide which form of therapy will help you heal the quickest and lower your pain level.

Ice is mostly used to reduce inflammation and swelling. Ice should mainly be used for acute injuries of less than 1 week. Acute injuries are newly acquired injuries that occur, often suddenly, during physical activity. If you apply ice therapy too long or directly to your skin, it can result in skin, tissue, or even nerve damage, so it’s important to pay close attention to your time spent on icing therapy. Never apply ice long enough to cause the skin to become white or blister – a symptom of frostbite. A common application is 15-20 minutes of using an ice pack with a barrier (pillow case or thin piece of fabric) between the ice and skin.

Heat increases circulation and should not be used for acute or new injuries. If used on these types of injuries, it can worsen them by causing too much inflammation. Heat is a great form of therapy to warm up stiff or scarred soft tissues before stretching or exercise. It’s also used for chronic pain or stress on muscles. Never apply a hot pack hot enough or long enough to cause the skin to blister. A common application is 10-20 minutes.

Both types of therapy can be beneficial to you if used correctly. If you have any questions, we’d love to answer them for you. Our physical therapists are here to help you improve the quality of your life! Call us today at 801-572-0690.

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