The quick answer is to use heat for sore muscles, chronic pain, and stress. Use ice/cold for actual injuries, swelling, redness, or acute pain resulting from a twist or heavy impact.
Heat is better for chronic pain or stress-related pain because it:
Cold is better for injuries because it:
There are two types of heat therapy:
Local heat involves heating a specific spot on your body using a warm cloth, a heating pad, or a heated gel pack.
Systemic heat means raising your entire body's temperature via a bath, jacuzzi, steam bath, or hot shower.
When applying heat therapy, it's key to:
1. Keep the heat source 'warm' not 'hot.'
Your heat source shouldn't be burning your skin. Remember, the desired effect is penetration into the muscles. Scalding yourself will not accomplish this.
2. Not apply the heat for too long or too short.
In many cases, the longer the heat is applied, the better. However, the heat application duration should be based on the type and/or magnitude of the injury.
For something like minor back tension or pain, a short interval of heat therapy (such as 15 to 20 minutes) may suffice. For more intense or painful injuries, longer application of heat (such as 30 minutes to 2 hours, or evermore) may work better.
It also depends on how patient you are and how willing you are to sit still. If sitting still and/or reading or watching TV isn't an option, know that there are many different types of heat wraps, many of which are made to stay on while moving. Also, the best heat wraps will maintain their temperature for a long time.
If you're sensitive to heat, the amount of time you apply the heat should be shorter. You may also need to use a barrier and/or wrap the hot pack in a towel before applying if it's too hot.
Cold or ice therapy should only be applied locally and should never be applied for more than 20 minutes at a time,
Remember: you're not looking to induce hypothermia; you're looking to numb your pain and restrict blood flow to the injury.
Also - if you're extra sensitive to cold, you should decrease your time.
Cold therapy can be applied via:
Applying ice or cold to wet skin will increase frostbite chances, so always make sure your skin is dry.
The effectiveness of cold therapy is highest immediately after injury and declines significantly after about 48 hours.
Keeping the injured part above the heart while icing will help reduce swelling even more.
Be sure not to apply the ice for more than 20 minutes, or you could be risking frostbite.
To schedule physical therapy at one of the 12 JOI Rehab Centers, please call 904-858-7045.
If your injury requires physical therapy or a doctor evaluation, visit JOI.net, call 904-JOI-2000,.or click below.