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Posted on 06-24-2017

At my chiropractic office in Ann Arbor, people often ask me when to apply heat and when to apply ice to injuries. The simple answer is, whatever works best. However, understanding what works best takes a little more explanation.

Ice should be used for inflammation-related injuries, as cold restricts/reduces inflammation and the flow of blood. For example, ice should be used for sprains, strains, and bruising. In more general terms, icing can be used for two types of injuries. 1. For an acute (just happened) injury. Here, icing can reduce bruising and stiffness (by decreasing the fluid retention that contributes to swelling). 2. For rehabilitative purposes, such as to reduce spasming and pain. As a cautionary note, if you have blood circulatory problems in which blood flow is slow or restricted, icing is probably not a good idea, as it will slow blood flow even further, which can potentially cause injury. In addition, people with cardiovascular health issues should consult their health care provider before applying ice. It’s generally considered safe to apply ice for “15 minutes on, 15 minutes off, then repeat as desired.” Take care not to apply it directly to skin.

Application of heat is mostly used to open blood vessels and allow blood to flow more freely. So, heat is used as a form of therapy for areas where blood flow is restricted. For example, heat can be effective helping to heal damaged tissue, aches, and pains. In addition, minor muscle tightness, joint stiffness, and joint tension can be effectively treated with heat application of just 15 to 20 minutes. You want to make sure that when you apply heat that it's done with an even intensity over the treated area, and you don't want to apply too much heat, as that could cause a burn. Also, those with hypertension, open wounds or cardiovascular problems should consult with their health care provider before applying heat. People who have a limited ability to sense temperature should also use caution when applying either heat or ice.

Of course, I also add, when talking to my patients in my Ann Arbor chiropractic office, chiropractic is a great technique for healing various musculoskeletal and nerve-related problems, such as neck pain and back pain, as well as a great technique to help reduce inflammation and speed up the healing of sprains and strains. As a matter of fact, without chiropractic treatment, you may not heal properly from a variety of injuries even if you do use heat or ice.

If you have any questions about this blog post, chiropractic, neck pain, back pain, or headaches feel free to contact me at my Ann Arbor office at mgtannenbam@hotmail.com.

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