Posted by: ensomabodyworks | September 7, 2010

ICE OR HEAT: Knowing which to use with an acute injury maybe the difference between a fast and easy or a slow and painful return to full activity

When you pull a back or leg muscle in yoga class or doing yard work you are micro – tearing muscle fibers. As a result the area becomes inflamed.  You should always ice inflammation.  How do you know if there is still inflammation two or three days after the injury?  There are 5 cardinal sings:

  1. Swelling – fluid rushes to the injury.
  2. Pain – from chemicals released by the body.
  3. Heat – Increased blood flow to area.
  4. Redness – enlarged blood vessels.
  5. Loss of function – from  pain and swelling.
  • Ice any acute injury for 48-72 hours for 10-15 minutes. Envelope the entire area plus a little more with ice – do not just put an ice pack on most of the injury.  Why? Secondary cell death. The body has cells, like little Pac men, that clean and eat up the torn tissue and a little healthy tissue around the injury site – just like a surgeon who removes a tumor then also a healthy tissue around the tumor to ensure all the cancer is removed.  Ice 3 times a day  for 2-3 days and you will be amazed at how much faster your recover.
  • So when do I use  heat?  About 2-3 days after a mild to moderate muscle pull.   Can you ice and heat an injury together?  Yes.  Just be sure there is no swelling as heat will perpetuate it.  I.E. If, on the 2nd or 3rd day after I strain my back, I wake up and my back is achy but not painful to the touch or swollen I will use heat. That night I will ice to reduce swelling that accumulated from the day’s activities.

In short ice any acute injury for 2-3 days then it becomes a continuum of heat or ice until the injury  is healed.


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