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Ice or Heat for Your Injury?

By Sara Butler

One of the most frequent questions chiropractors from The Joint Chiropractic get is what should be used when you’re experiencing joint pain. The answer may not be as cut and dry as you think. Most people are taught to apply ice to the area of pain or injury for the first two to three days, but there are some circumstances where you may benefit from alternating heat and ice. Here’s a rundown on whether or not you should be using heat or cold to treat your aches and pains.

For An Acute Injury

If you’re walking your dog after dinner and happen to twist your ankle, which do you think you should use? If you said ice, then you are correct! Research has shown ice to be the best treatment for acute – or sudden – injuries. The reason for this is you need to address any issues with major swelling. Some swelling is good for an injury; it’s your body’s way to send help to the injured area. But too much swelling can be a bad thing and needs to be headed off at the pass by ice.

Ice works by constricting the blood vessels and helping you to retain a range of motion. The only if in this situation is if the joint has had to be immobilized and you’ve had no weight on it. In this case, after about 72 hours of immobilization, ice and elevation, the injury should respond well to moist heat, such as a warm compress. If the injury is not so severe that you haven’t been stopping yourself from using the joint, then you have to follow a different set of rules.

If You’re Still Using your Joint

If you are continuing to use your joint while inflammation is present, then you are only irritating the soft tissue in the joint when you use it. Basically, you’re very nearly re-injuring the joint every time you use it and keeping it from healing the right way. You need to keep ice on it even after the first 72 hours if you’re continuing to use it, especially if your injury is to your back. You have no choice but to keep using your back because there are very few circumstances when it comes to acute back pain that the right thing to do is rest it.

If you have questions about how to treat an injury, even if it’s an old one, your chiropractor is a great resource and can help to get you on the road to recovery!

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