Should I Ice or Heat My Injury?
What’s up Youtube, Dr. Sandy Baird here from Riverstone Chiropractic.
Today we’re going to look at one of the most frequently asked questions that I get from
And that is…should I ice my injury or should I heat my injury?
Stay tuned to find out more!
So when it comes to ice, we need to look at two different things…we need to look at
pain management, and we need to look at inflammation management.
Now a review of the literature will show that there is not actually one shred of evidence
for inflammation management for ice.
So it’s not going to help us there.
Where it does help us is for the pain management.
So we learned in physiotherapy class that there’s the stages of ice: I’m going to put
them up here so you can see them on the screen too, it goes through coldness, and then burning,
and then achiness, and then intense pain, and then you hit the numbness.
So if you’re just icing for a couple of minutes and you’re not actually feeling the numbness,
you’re not going to do any good for pain relief, but if you can get to those stages, that’s
going to give you the best pain relief.
So what is the best way to ice an injury?
You may have seen that you have a lot of choices.
There’s the commercial ice packs, there’s dunking your hand or your ankle into a bucket
of ice water, there’s some other choices, but my favorite actually involves using of
these…a dixie cup.
These ones have penguins on them, cute, AWWW, but what you do is fill it up with water,
you put it in the freezer, if you know that you have an injury that you’re going to want
to be icing multiple times a day, just do six of them at a time, put them in the freezer.
When you’re ready to ice, just pull one out, and you just tear off the top rim here, so
that the surface of the ice is showing.
And then you…let’s say I’m going to apply ice to a forearm injury, I would start it
here (it can be nice to have a towel handy for drips, if you’re in a bathtub it doesn’t
matter or over a sink it doesn’t matter, but if you’re sitting in a chair, grab a towel)
and then you start to move the ice.
You don’t want to keep it in one place, there’s the possibility that you may damage the tissue.
You’ll want to move it around for one to three minutes, and you’ll notice pretty quickly
that the whole area will get pretty burn-y, pretty achy, and then it will start to be
At that point you’re done with the ice.
If you still have some left, you can put it back in the freezer.
Otherwise just compost or recycle the cup.
Now what about heat?
Well, there are a lot of cultures and a lot of traditions in Ayurvedic medicine and in
Eastern medicine that would actually point you towards heating up an injury.
A lot of the same cultures and traditions have things like warmed foods, drinking warm
liquids, keeping the body covered to maintain temperature.
These are all really important things and they tie into if you have an injury, maybe
not a forearm injury, but let’s say a back injury, neck, shoulders, a lot of cultures
would put heat traditionally on the injury.
And I think that may actually be a good idea, you have to look at common sense…if something
feels good, it probably is good!
I mean, you could take this to the extremes, like if you eat a whole cake all at once that
might feel good but it’s not good, you know what I mean?
But if we’re just looking at Occam’s Razor, the simplest principle, if it feels good to
heat an injury, it’s probably good for you.
And the research does not support ice for inflammation management, so why the heck not?
Heating an injury can give you some relief because it causes the muscles to relax, and
in my opinion, you don’t actually want to fight off too much inflammation.
Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury, and you want those cells to rush
in and clean up the damage, you want that stuff there!
You don’t want to try to “ice that away!”
So let’s keep some of that inflammation.
Just a tip with icing, in terms of how often you can do it… if you’re using an ice pack,
using something to cool the deeper layers of muscle and fascia, then it’s recommended
that you use the ice for about twenty minutes, and then rest for an hour.
And then you can come back to it and do it for another twenty minutes.
If you’re using something like the ice cup, it’s one to three minutes treatment, and then
take it off until you feel the numbness and the coldness has gone away, once you feel
that the tissue has returned to it’s normal blood flow, then you’re able to ice again.
And that usually takes between thirty minutes and an hour, so it’s not like you’re going
to be getting in there every five minutes, give it a little bit of a break and let your
body natural heal things.
And we should probably talk about when not to heat an injury…there’s some things that
you would not want to heat, and these are active injuries.
So if you’ve just fallen, you’ve fallen yesterday and things are really still inflamed, anything
that’s an open cut or an open wound…NO HEAT!
I hope that gave you a little bit of insight as to whether you should heat an injury or
cool off an injury, if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below, and
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Thanks and see you on the next video.