Ice and heat are one of the first things thought of when an injury occurs to help treat an injury and reduce pain. So what is better to use in the event of an injury, ice or heat?
When an injury occurs, the body increases blood flow to the injured area to provide vital nutrients to the injured body part. This increase in blood flow is one of the causes of inflammation, which unfortunately is the cause of some of the pain. When ice is placed on the skin over the injury, the blood vessels, to a certain depth, respond by constricting, which helps reduces the blood flow to that particular area of the body. This can help reduce some of the pain. When heat is applied, the opposite of constriction occurs. Heat causes the blood vessels to dilate, to a certain depth, which increases blood flow at that particular area. With this being said, ice is going to be the best initial treatment after most injuries to help reduce pain.
As noted earlier inflammation brings vital nutrients to an injured area, so it is an important response to every injury. We never want to try to completely stop this inflammatory response with constant use of ice or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Be sure to always consult with a medical professional to properly diagnose and establish the best treatment plan for any injury.
Mercy Clinic Sports Medicine offices are located at 15945 Clayton Road, Suite 210 (Phone: 636-893-1360) and 633 Emerson Road, Suite 20 (Phone: 314-325-3068).