It’s the classic question. Something hurts, should I ice it or heat it? Here are some simple ideas to keep in mind to help you make the right choice.
If it is a ‘new’ or sudden injury, you will want to ice. If you are treating a long standing injury and or trying to warm up your muscles before your workout/race/game you will want to heat.
Ice constricts the blood cells around the damaged area and reduces the flow/amount of blood to the injured muscle.
Heat dilates the blood cells around the damaged area and increases the flow/amount of blood to the injured muscle.
If you get hit by a softball in your thigh and you apply heat to your leg, you will increase the amount of blood to area and your leg will swell even more and be more painful—-so heat actually will make the injury worse.
My advice is to ice for 15-20 minutes and never more than 20 minutes. Remember how ice constricts the blood cells and reduces the flow/amount of blood to damaged area? Well, after 20 minutes of constriction the body finally wakes up and senses something is wrong in sector 8 (your leg) because it’s abnormally cold down there, so the body’s solution is to pump more blood to the area in an effort to warm you up—what you don’t want.
- Ice for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove ice. Wait one hour.
- You can ice again for 15-20 minutes.