HEAT OR ICE?
IF YOU ARE EXPERIENCING PAIN and are looking for an alternative to over-the-counter pain relievers, temperature therapy may be an option. Heat therapy and ice therapy are useful, and sometimes can be used interchangeably.
Heat is a great analgesic (pain reducer) and opens up capillary beds, bringing more blood to the region that is experiencing pain. This is great for tight muscles. However, heat therapy is also inflammatory. If your pain is caused by inflammation, heat can make it worse.
Like heat, ice is a great analgesic. But ice is also an anti-inflammatory. Ice therapy is a suitable treatment for acute injuries (during the inflamed state) because ice therapy causes your blood vessels to constrict, which reduces blood supply to the region. But if you don’t have any inflammation, ice therapy is unhealthy for tissues already starved for blood, as with pain that is caused by spastic muscles.
Be careful with heat and ice. They are very effective tools when used correctly, but they can be dangerous when used incorrectly or to treat the wrong ailment.
Patients often make an emergency visit to my office after sleeping with a heating pad. This is a dangerous practice. It is too easy to overheat the region and wake up in a terribly inflamed state.
It is also dangerous to sleep with an ice pack, especially if you are on pain pills. I have had more than one patient wake up with frostbite under an ice pack after having slept with one.
I believe the safest self-treatment for most pain is to:
1. Heat the muscles above and below the area of pain (avoiding the region of pain) for ten minutes to bring nutrient-filled blood to the area and to relax the muscles surrounding the painful spot.
2. Stretch the muscles above and below the point of pain gently while the muscles are warm and pliable
3. Finish with two minutes of ice to the most intense spot of pain to calm any inflammation that may have worsened with the heat and stretching.
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Drummond Chiropractic, LLC
Your Downtown Pain Chiropractic Specialists
565 N Walnut St,
Bloomington, IN 47404