To Ice or not to Ice…..THAT is the question.
I get asked this type of question a lot. "Should I use a heat pack or ice pack?" "Do I put Ice on my ankle and heat on my neck?" "When do I switch from one to the other?" "What about that 15min on and 15min off cycle I’ve heard about?"
There’s a lot of literature, and before you jump onto the google-ator and scroll through article upon article of varying advice, let me teach you a handy little rule to follow.
- If the injury has happened within the last 24-48hours, use ICE.
- After 24-48hours switch to heat.
- Apply this to every injury apart from back or neck pain (in this case go straight to the heat pack)
NOTE: If you are in more pain whilst using either Ice/Heat, STOP using it!
Now I’m not going to go into all the semantics about the different times to use different options as we all know you’re going to forget all of that vital information, that I spent hours collating, the minute you leave this blog post. By following the above rule, 9 times out of 10, you will be doing the right thing.
I am going to explain why the above rule works well though. Our bodies are pretty smart. Actually, they’re pretty phenomenally smart and will do what they can to fix themselves as quickly as possible when injured. Let’s say you roll your ankle playing footy on the weekend – quite soon after the incident, your ankle will swell up – which is actually a GOOD thing! Swelling happens when fresh bloods moves to the area to help heal the area, so we want it there. BUT being humans and not being a big lover of pain, once hurt, we tend to limit the amount of movement we allow our injured body part to do and so let all of the lovely fresh blood stagnate around the area, where it doesn’t really help much at all.
SO, by icing in the first 24-48hours, we limit the amount of fresh blood that pools to the area and allow ourselves a bit of pain relief that will help us to move the area a bit (IMPORTANT!). If you’ve ever been to a physio for any injury (save perhaps a broken bone), you would’ve (or should’ve) been encouraged to do some gentle movement – no matter the injury! This helps cycle the blood so you’re constantly getting a fresh supply of blood to speed up your recovery. This is why after two days, you start applying heat- to encourage any of that stagnant blood to start moving again and get a fresh supply. If you do this too soon after the injury, you get too much fresh blood and everything gets a bit achier which makes you not want to move the area.