Should I put heat or ice on my pain? This is another question I get asked on a weekly basis. The answer again is…it depends.
If you recently injured yourself, then I would recommend ice over heat for at least the first 3-5 days. Ice is better for reducing acute inflammation and pain management. Ice for 15 min on and 1 hour off. Continue throughout the day as needed to assist with pain and swelling. It is important that the ice is cold enough to get you numb, without giving you frostbite, so too many layers under the ice may not make the ice cold enough to help.
If what you are feeling is more stiffness or muscle tightness, then I would recommend heat over ice. The heat will make your muscles and joints feel looser due to the warmth. Make sure you have enough layers to keep your skin from getting burnt. Again apply the heat for 15-30 minutes on and then reapply as often as needed throughout the day.
If you don’t have an injury and you just happen to wake up with pain or end up feeling pain as the day goes on, then you might try ice initially for 15 min and then apply heat for 15 as a contrast. Again, if this is helpful, apply the contrast as often as necessary.
There are some precautions and contraindications to applying superficial ice and heat. You should definitely seek advice from your medical provider if you have any of the following: a history of vascular impairments, Raynaud’s disease, local limb ischemia, cold allergy, skin infections, open wounds, acute inflammatory conditions like RA, recent fever or infection, impaired sensation, etc to name a few.
If you have a recent or chronic injury/pain, check with Kintsugi Physical Therapy to see what modality is right for you.