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To Heat or To Cool



Using heat or ice for an injury tends to be controversial topic. Many providers, trainers and coaches all have different ideas of what may be best for a specific injury. Both heat and ice have been researched extensively, but the effectiveness of both therapies have demonstrated conflicting evidence.

Whether heat or ice is used mainly depends on the stage of the injury. There are 3 phases of healing: inflammatory phase, proliferation phase and the remodeling phase.

Inflammatory Phase: protects the injured area from further damage

Proliferation Phase: the formation of new tissue and scar tissue

Remodeling Phase: restores structure and function to the area

Ice

Physiological Effect: Will cause vasoconstriction to decrease tissue metabolism, decreases pain signals, and decreases inflammation/swelling. The decreased metabolic rate will also limit further injury.

Indications: injuries in the inflammatory phase, swelling and pain, muscle spasm

Acute injuries that are less than 6 weeks old.

Heat (moist)

Physiological Effect: Will increase the temperature of the tissues, causes blood vessels to dilate, increased metabolic rate to speed healing.

Indications: injuries in the proliferation or remodeling phases, joint stiffness, muscle spasm

Chronic injuries that are greater than 6 weeks old.

Ultimately, heat or ice is not always appropriate for every patient or every injury. Occasionally alternating between heat and ice can be beneficial as well. Be sure to speak with your provider regarding the best course of care for your specific injury and diagnosis.

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