As a massage therapist and bodyworker for over five years I have gotten the question of when the ice and one of the heat quite often. I thought a blog post would be most efficient way of getting this information out to everyone. I like to keep things simple ice is for irritation everything else requires heat. So lets take that very simple statement and give it some context. At the site of irritation feet is often generated above your normal body temperature this can be felt by your hand. A great example of this would be low back pain sometimes with pain directly in the small of the back person can actually feel the heat being generated in their little spine. Often times the patient will describe this as a dull ache. Right after an injury and area can begin to swell and generate heat most people are familiar with this this would be a time to apply ice. In general I should be applied to that isolated area for no more than 20 minutes with at least a 40 minute window between ice applications.
When a person has sore or tight muscles heat can be applied however most people do not apply heat correctly this guide again will be very simple. Heat should be applied to the area that is sore or tight only. With the advent of modern heating pads temperatures camera range wildly. In most cases from my experience people tend to generate too much heat on an isolated area for too short of a period of time so my rule of thumb is this: warm and isolated area as if you were cooking a roast in the oven. As lower temperature as possible for as long as possible.
For those moments when you're not quite sure whether you should ice or heat because you cannot feel either tightness or irritation always go with ice. If you apply heat to an unsure area you'll notice no pain reduction whatsoever you may actually notice an increase in your pain level.
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