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Video Transcript | Should You Use Ice or Heat To Heal Injuries?
Dr. Who: For the weekend warriors, such as myself, who get knicked up during the weekend from doing team sports like hockey or spartan races – please put this controversy to bed once and for all: When do I use ice and when do I use heat?
Dr. Kevin McElroy: Another good question, one that I get a lot. There’s confusion among primary care doctors and internists about that as well. You want to think about ice after activity or heat after you’ve kind of been sedentary. So, if something happens, or if you do something – you’re out playing, you sprain your ankle or you get bruised, you want to use ice. The purpose of using ice is to reduce swelling and reduce blood flow. So after an injury or an aggravation, your body’s tendency is to increase blood flow and increase swelling. That’s counterproductive to you progressing whatever you’re doing. So, ice helps to reduce blood flow and reduce swelling. If you apply heat in that situation, you’re going to do the opposite: you’re going to increase blood flow and make your swelling worse.
So, the role for heat is someone with a chronic back injury or neck injury, who wakes up stiff in the morning, or is sitting at their desk all day and gets up and they feel tight & stiff, you put a heating pad and that will help increase and start to relax some of your muscles.
It’s important that either with ice or with heat – you don’t want to apply ice directly to your skin and that the heats not, obviously too hot, you can cause damage to your skin in either situation. And you want to make sure that if you have any sensory issues, like from diabetic neuropathy, to not apply either of those to anywhere you can’t feel. Although they’re safe and very effective they can cause some injuries to you as well.
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