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The Truth about Heat and Ice for a Sports Injury

The Truth about Heat and Ice for a Sports Injury
28 May 18

The Truth about Heat and Ice for a Sports Injury


Most people know that heat or ice can be helpful for an injury. However, they may receive conflicting advice on when to use each one. Here is some information that will help you the next time you need a sports injury so that you can begin to recover faster and experience less pain.

Using Heat for an Injury

Heat is best used for chronic pain. It can help the muscles to relax as well as loosening tissues. Heat also helps to stimulate blood flow to a wound or injury. It’s also ideal for use with injuries caused by overuse.

Heat shouldn’t be used after participating in a sport or after an acute injury. Only use heat for limited amounts of time. You can use a heating pad or a hot towel. Make sure the heat isn’t excessive because it can cause burns. Never leave it on longer than 20 minutes. Don’t use it if the injury includes an open wound or if it’s accompanied by a fever.

Using Ice for an Injury

Ice is best used immediately following an acute injury. It does the most work within 48 hours of the incident and will reduce swelling and help with pain. People often use ice with injuries like ankle sprains to help promote healing.

Ice can also be used for chronic pain and after a sports activity to help prevent inflammation of the affected area. However, you don’t want to use ice before you play.

You shouldn’t leave ice on longer than 20 minutes because you can end up with frostbite. A longer application doesn’t mean it will give you more relief. You can repeat the process up to one time every hour if needed.

A common myth is to switch from ice to heat after 48 hours or to alternate between it and heat. However, you can continue with ice as long as you need it.

If you’re in doubt about which treatment to use, ask your doctor. Heat or ice therapy is no substitute for seeing a doctor to diagnose your injury. However, it can be helpful for minor injuries or with other treatments.

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