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Ice or Heat : Which do I choose?

2020/06/22 Home Education and advice

Ice or Heat : Which do I choose?

Are you banging into things or getting injured during your activities?

My child was playing soccer…I was walking in the woods…. I didn’t see the step… PAFFF, CRUNCHHH!! This is how my patients often explain how their pain, swelling, and even discoloration started. 

The famous question…

« Should I apply ice or heat??? »

If you have already asked yourself this question, you are not alone. 


Once an injury occurs, there is a period of inflammation that begins. What is the inflammatory phase? What are the signs? In fact, often the inflammatory phase is characterized by: swelling, pain, and/or local redness. 


In reality, the inflammatory process is completely normal! The body requires this period to allow healing of damaged tissue by replacing it with new cells. Therefore, we need to encourage this inflammatory phase while reducing unpleasant effects like swelling and pain. 


During the first 72 hours, it is recommended to apply ice. This helps control and decrease the presence of swelling and pain. The ice should be applied every 2-3 hours for approximately 10-15 minutes. 

Following this, contrast baths are recommended until the inflammation is controlled. This helps increase blood circulation to help repair damaged tissue. Contrast baths are comprised of 30 seconds of ice and 30 seconds of heat every 2-3 hours for approximately 5-10 minutes each time. 

Finally, heat is recommended after the inflammatory phase is over. The heat should also be applied every 2-3 hours for a period of 15-20 minutes. 


The benefits are numerous! In short, not only are they effective in reducing pain and calming inflammation, they also modify cell activity to speed up the repair of damaged tissue and the healing process. 


Remember that when you apply either ice or heat, it is very important to follow the instructions on the ice pack or heating pad and wrap a towel around it to protect your skin. Use a wet towel when applying ice and use a dry towel when applying heat. If you have questions concerning your symptoms and/or the application of these modalities, please do not hesitate to contact or consult a qualified health professional. 


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