Fitness & Outdoors

When to Use Ice and When to Use Heat


This week's post comes from guest blogger Dr. Karlynn Benson, who owns and operates Skyline Chiropractic in Burnsville, MN.  I love this topic, as I can never remember when to use ice or heat.  I am a runner, who always seems to have a sore muscle or two.

from Dr. Benson…

Anyone who has ever worked-out, trained, experienced an injury or had sore muscles has wondered if they should use an ice pack or a heating pad. Unfortunately, many of my chiropractic patients ask this question after they have done the wrong one.

The ice pack, or cold therapy, works best for areas that are inflamed (making the area red), swollen or painful. You should never apply ice directly to the skin. Using a thin towel between the ice and skin, apply the treatment for 15-20 minutes. Allow the skin to warm fro at least 40 minutes, and then repeat two or three times per day. For acute injuries, this can be repeated for up to three days.

The heating pad is best for muscle spasms, stiff or achy muscles or chronic issues. Because heat increases circulation, it can increase inflammation or swelling. Warm, not hot is the goal, so don’t apply a heating pad directly on the skin. It is best to limit treatments to 20 minutes. Just like with ice, wait 40 minutes to apply again.

Heating pads are dry heat. Wet heat, like steamed towels, whirlpools and baths are best. Heat producing lotions, like Biofreeze, work well for sore spots.

Bottom line: Ice is best for pain, inflamed (redness) or swelling. Heat works best for chronic pain, spasms or sore muscles. Your chiropractor can advise you on the best treatment for you.

Dr. Karlynn Benson owns and operates Skyline Chiropractic in Burnsville, MN since 1995 with husband David Yearling,D.C. She attended and graduated from Northwestern College of Chiropractic in 1992. Appointed to teaching faculty at Northwestern Health Science University in 1995. Along with lecturing and consulting on lifestyle and weight loss, in 2006 she was recognized and awarded as being one of the best chiropractors in Guide To America's TopChiropractors.


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