This is a question I am often asked at Kiroclinique my chiropractic clinic in Montreal. Many experts have different opinions on this, but it is my opinion that the method explained below is the one that will help you get results as quickly as possible
Ice should be used when you have a “new” pain or recurrence of an old injury or chronic pain problem.
For example, you have knee pain after a day of walking, it would be best to start with an ice application on your knee. If in the past you had a knee pain and while playing sport the same pain came back, recurrence, then again the ice would be preferred.
To apply ice use this method: Wrap the ice in a small towel and apply ice to the affected area for 10-15 minutes every 2-3 hours.
It is important to put something between your skin and ice to avoid the risk of frostbite. Also do not exceed 6 ice applications per day.
N.B. Ice applications should only be used for the first 2-3 days when you have pain. If at the end of these 2-3 days, your pain is still present, this is a good indication that you should consult your chiropractor for him or her to analyze what is going on.
Persistent pain is a sign that this pain needs to be assessed by a health professional to understand the cause and provide the appropriate care. If you wait too long, your pain could turn into chronic pain which would only delay the healing and bring you more discomfort.
There area where heat can be beneficial to help relieve pain is the muscles. However, only make heat applications if these have been recommended by a health professional. Warm compresses can be helpful to relief or relax muscles that are tight.
Apply heat to the affected area for 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours. Again, the goal is not to burn the skin so be careful not to apply compresses that are too hot.
Also by personal preference, I prefer the applications of hot towels to the heating bag that can be put in the microwave. Electric heating pads are to be avoided.
Hoping to help you demystify the famous issue of heat or ice applications. The rule is very simple. If you experience pain right after doing any activity, you are much better with ice applications than heat applications in order to reduce the inflammation.
If you have constant pain and no improvement with ice applications, this is a sign that you should consult your chiropractor so that he can assess the exact cause of your pain. After all the expertise of a health professional is much more important than putting hot or cold applications.
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Written By Dr Diana Al Ayoubi, chiropractor DC ,