La Mesa Massage Therapy San Diego Swedish Massage Relaxation Sports Massage Angela Robertson

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For years I've been telling clients one thing or another when they ask, "Should I be icing or using heat?"The information is constantly changing with new schools of thought and research but the basics still hold true.  Ice packs and heating aids will not give you the comfort that medicines would; however, they are easy and affordable ways to limit pain and take the edge off of spasms and knots.  

Here is a brief description of the benefits of using ice and heat, and when to use each.  

Cold facts

  • draws heat away from the injury site by constricting blood vessels
  • reduces swelling and inflammation
  • reduces pain
  • most effective immediately after receiving injury or onset of pain
  • often used in conjunction with rest, compression, and elevation (known as R.I.C.E. treatment) immediately after workouts or injuries

When to ice

  • after workouts to reduce inflammation or ease muscle aches
  • for the first 2-3 days after you receive an acute injury (such as a sprained ankle or pulled muscle)
  • after activities that re-ignite a chronic injury
  • arthritis pain
  • knotted muscles

Hot facts

  • improves circulation
  • reduces pain
  • eases cramping and relaxes tight muscles and tissues
  • increases flexibility and range of motion
  • often used in rehab to deliver nutrients and oxygen to damaged areas by vasodilation

When to heat

  • to ease regular pain from chronic conditions
  • before workouts to improve muscle and ligament elasticity
  • during muscle spasms or cramping 
  • arthritis pain 
  • stiffness and sore or tense muscles

People often ask how long the icing or heating period should last and how long they should wait before reapplying the treatments.  The estimated time to leave ice or heat  on is 10-20 minutes.   A general guideline is to wait until the skin is back to it's normal color and temperature before reapplying.  

Be aware that heat can make a new injury worse.  A good rule of thumb is if you believe the area is inflamed, ice it.     


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la mesa, ca 91942

ice vs. heat

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Ice for pain management.  heat for relaxation. when to use and which is best.

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