No one enjoys pain, yet it’s something that everyone will experience during their lifetime at one point or another. Hopefully, those times will be few and far between, but it’s good to understand the purpose of pain and what it means. It’s also helpful to know some effective pain management techniques so you don’t have to live in constant pain on a daily basis.
Let’s take a closer look at what causes pain and then evaluate the age-old question of whether icing your injury is better than applying heat to it.
What Causes Pain?
Even though it’s unpleasant to feel, it’s important to remember that pain actually serves a useful purpose. It’s one way that your body lets you know that something is wrong. When you feel pain, it’s a signal to evaluate your surroundings and possibly change what you’re doing to help prevent further bodily harm.
When a body part gets injured, your body’s natural response is to send increased fluid to that area. While this fluid contains oxygen and nutrients to help your body heal, it causes increased pressure and tightness which then results in the feeling of pain. Getting rid of that extra fluid, also known as inflammation, is one way to reduce or eliminate pain.
This brings us to the question of how to use icing (cryotherapy) or heat (thermotherapy) to reduce pain and when each method would be the best treatment option.
When Does Icing Your Injury Make Sense?
When ice is applied to an injured area, it acts as a vasoconstrictor. As the blood vessels narrow, fluid is kept from entering the affected region, effectively reducing inflammation and therefore, pain. In most cases, ice is used for acute injuries, meaning ones that have happened within the past three days or so.
How to Safely and Effectively Ice Your Injury
Icing your injury can be a very effective pain management tool, but it should be done in a particular way in order to achieve the best results. Here are some important notes to remember:
- Ice is generally preferred over heat for treating recent injuries or pain from recent surgery.
- Icing your injury works best when following this schedule: 20 minutes on and then at least 30 minutes off.
- Protect your skin by placing a thin towel or other cloth between the ice pack and your body.
- Icing can be an effective inflammation and pain management technique for chronic injuries such as osteoarthritis or tendonitis. Check with your healthcare provider for specific instructions or recommendations for your condition.
When Does Applying Heat to Your Injury Make Sense?
When heat is applied to an injured area, it acts as a vasodilator. That means it opens up the blood vessels, allowing more oxygen- and nutrient-filled blood and fluid to flow to the region. Heat is most often used for the treatment of injuries to large muscle groups or for chronic conditions such as tight muscles.
How to Safely and Effectively Apply Heat to Your Injury
Similar to icing your injury, applying heat to a sore area can be an effective pain management tool but must be used correctly for optimal results. Here are some important notes to remember:
- Heat is generally preferred for treating large muscle groups or chronic conditions.
- Use moist heat or a heating pad to apply heat to the injured area.
- Heating your injury works best with this schedule: 15 minutes on and at least 30 minutes off.
For some injuries, it makes sense to use a combination of both ice and heat. When the inflamed area is iced for about 20 minutes and then heat is applied, the process of constricting and then dilating the blood vessels can act as a pump to move fluid out of the area. Check with your doctor to see if an ice/heat combination would be an effective way to treat your specific injury.
Professional Pain Relief and Chiro Treatment in Chandler, AZ
At Absolute Pain Relief, we provide a variety of pain management services including chiropractic treatment, massage, exercise therapy, and medical pain management. Conveniently located on the border of Chandler and Gilbert, AZ, we’re able to effectively service clients from all over the area, including Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, and Phoenix.
From neck pain to lower back pain and everything in between, we work closely with clients to determine the root cause of the pain. Based on our findings, we can then determine the best course of treatment to help you become pain free and feel your best.
We welcome you to give us a call today to see how we can help. It’s time to prioritize your health so you can live your best life!