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Essential Medical Massage & Wellness

2301 Ohio Dr, Ste 214, Plano, TX 75093

Essential Medical Massage

Specializing in Acute Pain, Rehabilitation and Cancer Care

Phoebe Courcy, LMT, MMP, CPMT

Health Blog


Ice vs. Heat

Posted on July 26, 2011 at 2:15 PM
Regardless of whether your pain is acute or chronic, there are general treatment principles that you can apply to help ease the pain and swelling related to an injury or illness.  These approaches are commonly referred to as RICHES - rest, ice, compression, heat, elevation, support.  Severe sprains or other injuries should be evaluated by a physician, especially if symptoms worsen. 

REST is a period of time in which little to no movement is allowed.  This allows your body to heal and repair the injured tissues.  During this time, you should also assess pain levels and even take notes to monitor your progress.  Once you feel improvement, slowly resume activity.  Most minor injuries heal in 1-2 weeks.

ICE is particularly recommended for injuries to the musculoskeletal system.  It is a tried and true anti-inflammatory!  Typically, a cold treatment should last 10-20 minutes and repeated every hour.  Keep in mind that prolonged use of ice treatments may cause damage.

COMPRESSION to an injured area can help prevent swelling.  One common form of compression is an ACE bandage applied to the injured area.  Make sure it is not too tight, and seek approval from a medical professional.

HEAT may be used for an injury and can help relieve tightness and spasm.  Make sure that at least 72 hours as passed post-injury before beginning heat treatments.  Applying heat too early in the recovery phase may actually make an injury worse. 

DO NOT use heat in the following cases:
-during acute phase of healing.
-if swelling/discoloration is present
-if there are any signs of infection (i.e. redness, heat, swelling).
-if you are prone to blood clots or have high blood pressure.
-against the advice of a physician.

ELEVATION of the injured body part above the heart can help decrease swelling, and allows gravity to assist moving fluids back towards the heart.

SUPPORT and protection of the area is critical.  It may be necessary to wear protective splints or braces if injury requires.

A good rule of thumb to follow is "When in doubt, use ICE."  Within the first 72 hours of an injury, ice is the most effective in relieving pain and swelling.

Remember, always pay attention to your body and its pain signals!  If ice is not helping to relieve your painful muscle spasms, switch to heat, preferably a moist heat source.  One easy trick is to place moist washcloths in the microwave for a couple minutes and use as local spot treatments.  Careful, they may be very hot at first.  Moist heat penetrates the muscles easier without dehydrating them!  If you choose to utilize heating pads as your heat source, do not use more than 15- 20 minutes at a time, doing so will only cause a reverse reaction.  It is very easy to overdo this approach.  Monitor your time and try again every hour if needed.

Hope some of these tips help you decide on your next RICHES approach.

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