Heat or Ice? That is the question………

Have you ever injured yourself whether that be in general life or while playing sport and then realise what cause of action – heat or ice – is the best one to use? Many a times have we been asked this question.

So we thought we would map out when you should apply ice or heat and what “self-care” strategies should be implemented to assist with the start of the healing process and enhance your chances of a speedy and uncomplicated recovery. This approach to muscle & joint injuries we are about to share is so simple, easy to use and very effective yet many times it gets over looked due to our busy lifestyles.

To avoid confusion we are going to break this down and keep it simple. Your best bet is to tailor your approach according to how the soft tissue injury appears on examination.

If the affected area is RED, HOT or SWOLLEN, then the best approach is to follow the well-known R.I.C.E.R acronym – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation and Referral.

Rest – stop the activity immediately to avoid further injury,

Ice – applying an ice pack wrapped in a cloth to the affected area. General guide is to apply ice for 10 minutes for every 1hour, for the first 24-48 hour period.

Compression – apply a bandage to the affected area to control swelling and bleeding. Be careful not to apply the bandage too tight, as to cause pain.

Elevation – helps reduce bleeding and swelling.

Referral – make an Osteopathic appointment to specifically treat the condition.

The “self-care” approach to R.I.C.E.R is best used within a 48-hour window of the initial point of injury. It is a very good pain reliever, controls excessive swelling and reduces blood pooling which can add days or even weeks to the healing process.

If the area is NOT red, hot and swollen then applying HEAT is your best option.

When we apply heat to an affected area the intention is to improve blood flow, ease contracted muscles and by doing so alleviate stress on associated joints and ligaments. This should serve to decrease your symptoms and improve the function of the affected area.

Heat may be applied in many ways, for instance; creams and ointments, a heat pack or water bottle, a shower or bath, gentle specific range movement exercises or any combination of the above. Heat is more commonly used with people who have sub-acute or chronic injuries. These are injuries that have been around longer than a week or two and might have been suspect to a little bit of ongoing wear and tear or re-injury.

Now it’s important to note that the above described self-care tissue management strategies do not substitute for a comprehensive treatment approach. They are guidelines for an appropriate self-care, designed to help people at the point of injury or with managing the ongoing effects of an injury. It’s very important to seek out professional help if the symptoms persist or if they substantially affect your ability to carry out your day-to-day activities.

Whatever your self-management strategy – R.I.C.E.R or heat – an Osteopath can undertake a more thorough examination and diagnosis of your injury should you be concerned about it.

In most cases of acute injury, research suggests once the 48 hour period has passed, commencing a series of controlled range of motion exercises and gradual weight-bearing activities helps get people back on their feet sooner.

With sub-acute or chronic injuries, best practice is to get the person back to pre- injury levels of activity, although this sometimes means a careful staged process of gentle increases in exercise and activity.

At St George Health, we pride ourselves on the fact that we take the time to listen and understand the nature of your complaint and then provide an easy, convenient and effective care and management plan tailored specifically to you to get you back to good health as quickly but as safely as possible. If you have any questions one of our friendly practitioners will be happy to discuss them with you (02) 9553 9823, alternatively book online and we will see you soon.