Do you get confused about when to apply ice or heat to an injury or painful joint? We do, too. Here’s a quick refresher.
Generally, heat promotes blood flow and helps muscles relax, so use heat to relieve stiff joints or tight, tender muscles. Heat can also relieve pain when old injuries flare up.
Cold, on the other hand, decreases blood flow and helps minimize inflammation. An ice pack or even a bag of frozen vegetables is better for treating new injuries like strains or sprains, because ice reduces swelling, bleeding and bruising. Ice can also ease pain from osteoarthritis, gout, migraines and tendonitis.
Alternating hot and cold packs may help manage arthritis pain. For instance, use heat before exercise and ice afterwards.
- Don’t use heat or ice longer than 20 minutes at a time.
- Make sure skin doesn’t become too hot or too cold.
- Use a cloth between hot or cold packs and your skin.
- Avoid using heat on skin that feels warm to the touch.