Almost daily we get the question, “Should I use ice or heat?” First you have to figure out what type of pain you are experiencing, acute pain or chronic pain.
Acute pain is caused be sudden or traumatic injuries that occur after a fall or sprain. Common signs and symptoms of acute injuries include tenderness, skin warm to the touch and swelling. Ice is the best immediate treatment for acute injuries because it reduces the swelling and pain of the affected area.
Chronic pain develops slowly and is long lasting. Chronic injuries can come and go and cause a dull pain and soreness. It is often the result of overuse but can also develop when and acute injury is not properly treated. Heat is usually used for chronic injuries that have no inflammation or swelling. It can help to relax tight muscles or muscle spasms.
Heat can be used before a workout to prepare the body or muscles for exercise or stretching by increasing the blood flow, in turn increasing flexibility and elasticity. Do not apply heat after a workout. Ice is a better choice after a workout even for a chronic injury. It will help to calm down the muscles and prevent swelling and inflammation.