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Should I Use Ice or Heat for Acute Injuries?

man using an ice pack on his kneeYou may wonder what the correct approach is regarding homecare for an injury. When it comes to ice or heat, most people will apply ice, which is the correct choice for an acute injury. When it gets cold, though, people use heat, but doing so can slow down the healing process and increase inflammation.

Ice is always better than heat with an acute injury. Use a towel around the ice and put it over your shirt instead of under it to decrease any sensitivity. Ice helps to decrease inflammation, particularly in the first 24-48 hours, which can then increase your healing.

Get Checked by a Chiropractor

It’s also always a good idea to call your chiropractor while you’ve got ice on that injury. You may think it’s just a crick in your neck, you slept wrong on your neck or you just have a tight muscle. It’s important to remember that those tight muscles can pull your spine out of alignment. So it’s essential to apply ice to relieve that muscle tension, but also important to schedule an appointment with us.

We see many patients who say it’s just their upper back or neck that’s giving them trouble. It’s important to note that your spine is one complete unit; so when things are affected in your neck or upper back, it’s going to cause problems all the way to your knees. We check the full spine and making sure we’re treating everything-even areas that aren’t giving you pain.

Remember this: just because you’re not feeling pain in that area doesn’t mean that your spine is not subluxated.

When Heat Might Be a Better Option

At what point is heat a better option? If the injury or pain is older than six weeks, then heat might be a better choice. We also recommend that you apply heat before you exercise. That’s because heat increases the extensibility of the muscles, getting them ready to move.

Our chiropractors rarely have to recommend that patients use heat because usually within six weeks, we’ve seriously decreased pain. However, some athletes are using their bodies more, and we would recommend moist heat, which is hard to do at home, so sometimes we’ll do that in the office for patients.

Remember 15 Minutes on & 15 Minutes Off

Some patients say that they used ice but their back hurts even more. Knowing that’s a strange thing to occur we’ll ask how long they used the ice for. They usually reply that they fell asleep on it! It’s important to only use an ice/heat pack for 15 minutes at a time-15 minutes on the area of pain and 15 minutes off. It’s a good idea to set a timer on your phone so that you don’t forget about it. You can do more damage after those 15 minutes than you are doing any good.

So if you get injured remember these two steps: 1) apply ice and 2) call your chiropractor!

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