A Beginner’s Guide to Heat and Ice

Heat and ice are nature‘s pain relievers

For people managing chronic pain, heat and ice are indispensible aids in the quest to keep pain and inflammation down. But heat and ice are often conflated- throw either one on your sore back for pain relief. As their names suggest, they actually perform opposite tasks:

  • Heat boosts circulation by opening blood vessels, providing oxygen and nutrients that help muscles supporting the spine heal more effectively; akin to stretching, heat decreases stiffness by loosening muscle fibers, which improves range of motion; catalyzes sensory receptors in your skin, which help to slow down pain transmissions to the brain. 
  • Ice slows blood flow to the area, slowing down runaway levels of inflammation and swelling; it also reduces nerve activity in the local area, effectively numbing the pain. 

The general rule is: heat for muscle pain and stiffness, ice for acute injury and inflammation. Using heat for acute injuries can actually increase inflammation and delay healing.

A guide to the appropriate use of heat and ice

Use heat for the following ailments:

  • Arthritis: heat relieves stiffness in joints 
  • Headaches: headaches are often caused by muscle spasms, which are effectively treated with heat.
  • Sprains: use during recovery to alleviate stiffness in the affected area. 
  • Strains: again, use during recovery to alleviate stiffness.

Use ice in the following applications:

  • Headaches: can numb the intense pulsing effect of tension headaches 
  • Tendinitis: a disease of inflammation, ice relieves stiffness by limiting inflammation 
  • Sprains: to ease inflammation and swelling
  • Strains: to ease inflammation and swelling

Natural pain relief starts with chiropractic treatment 

At our office in Hackensack, we are dedicated to helping people use natural methods to effectively limit pain and increase function, allowing you to get on with your life despite your condition. Heat and ice are two powerful methods for effecting natural pain relief, but they must be used properly! Knowing when and why you use heat or ice helps you take control of your healthcare. For more solutions like this, give our office in Hackensack a call to schedule an appointment today. 




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