At Tidal Health we are asked what is best for people to do, ice something or put heat on it?
Depending on the injury, where in the body, how old the injury is and what the aims of your treatment are, depend on which modality to use.
Ice is greatly beneficial in the initial inflammatory stage (0-72 hours post injury) as it will reduce the inflammation to a more manageable degree as the body will always overact. however the other great benefit of ice is its pain relief. Ice is great at numbing pain and therefore can be used in treatment of injuries both acute and chronic.
Heat helps in bringing blood to the surface of the skin and to areas that need repair. Nutrients in the blood need to make it to injury sites to get to work in repairing and remodeling tissues.
Heat is best used after the inflammatory stage, in acute injuries with no inflammation like nerve entrapments, chronic conditions that may need a small inflammatory boost and after conditions where the body has been immobilised for a length of time either by pain; like nerve entrapments such as sciatica or after broken limbs that needed to be immobilised for protection.
Heat is also great to optimise stretching as it makes the muscle my malleable and pliant. Therefore a better stretch and effect can be achieved through heat. Also heating the muscle before stretching is safer and will guard against injury.
The effects of doing both together (contrasting bathing) can help things like chronic inflammatory conditions such as an ankle sprain as swelling may dwell in the joint. Swelling may dwell in joints due to insufficient drainage and therefore the contrasting bathing can act to flush the swelling out and get picked up by the lymphatic system.
In summary both are greatly beneficial in their own ways and at Tidal Health we can guide you further through your ailments, rehabilitation and preventative strategies.