Most of us think of an ice pack in case of an unexpected injury. An ice pack can come in handy in reducing swelling and discomfort. However, in some cases, heat works best. On other occasions, your doctor may tell you to alternate between the two. So, how do you decide whether you should ice or heat the site of injury?

Icing an injury is best when….

Icing is best for injuries that cause pain, swelling and/or inflammation. For example, for forehead bumps after a fall or an injury like stubbing your shin or twisting your ankle. Reducing the temperature to the injury decreases blood flow, reducing swelling. Since swelling typically causes pain, you experience pain relief.

Cold therapy can be done by –

  • Keeping a wet towel in the freezer for 15 minutes and using it
  • Using reusable cold packs
  • A bag of frozen vegetables, if you have nothing else available

Cold therapy for 15 – 20 minutes every one to two hours, within 24 to 48 hours of an injury is beneficial.

Applying heat is a better option when….

As a complete opposite of cold therapy, heat improves blood flow. This aids healing by bringing more oxygen and nutrients to the injury site. Heat therapy also increases the temperature of deep tissue, which supports muscle flexibility.

Heat therapy is best for chronic muscle pain or persistent discomfort in disorders, like arthritis. You can apply tolerable heat at home with a warm bath or heating pad. Heat can be applied to the area for 15 – 20 minutes at a time and up to 3 times a day.

Alternating between ice and heat is best when….

Icing is most effective right after an injury, since it instantly reduces swelling and pain. Once the initial swelling starts reducing, you can use heat therapy to increase blood flow to the area and, aid healing.

There is no common answer for all injuries. If you have been injured, it is recommended that you seek a pain doctor’s help right away.

To consult the best federal workers’ compensation and personal injury doctors in Phoenix, AZ, call Arizona Injury Medical Associates at 480-347-0941. Workers’ comp doctors will not only help you recover from your workplace injury or illness but also help you with the necessary case documentation you need to file your claim.