Which is better ice or heat for my acute or chronic pain?
One of the most common questions we get at Hartley Chiropractic and Scoliosis Center is whether to use ice or heat to help with pain. The most important thing is to first have an understanding of what is causing the pain. Dr. J Hartley has helped thousands of patients with acute and chronic pain. But, he treats them all the same, different. Meaning each patient is evaluated for the specific cause of their pain. And care to improve the painful condition is individual to that patient. If you start using ice or heat without working on the cause of the pain, the problem will likely get worse over time whether you have symptoms or not.
Ice is better for acute and chronic pain conditions
In general, ice is a safe choice whether you have an acute or chronic condition. Ice is very helpful with settling down acute pain. Acute, mean the pain came on recently and may be related to trauma. Usually, inflammation (swelling, heat and redness) is present. In chronic pain, a pain cycle has been created. Meaning a memory or neural pathway has been learned by the nerves and muscles of the body. There is also chronic inflammation in the joints and muscle. Use of ice calms down chronic inflammation and breaks the chronic pain cycle.
Why to stay away from heat in acute and chronic pain conditions
In chronic pain conditions, use of heat may improve circulation, flexibility and temporary relief. But, it drives the pain cycle and inflammation to worsen. Thus, you may feel better temporarily and worse later. Over years, this can cause severe painful scar tissue. In acute conditions, heat would cause more swelling, inflammation and pain as well as produce future painful scar tissue.
How long do I use the ice?
With acute or chronic pain, ice should be applied for no longer than twenty minutes and no sooner repeated than two hours. A thin towel should be between the skin and the ice pack. For the first twenty minutes, ice pulls fluid away from the area. After twenty minutes, the body experiences a reaction to bring fluid to the area to warm it up. Thus, using ice for longer than twenty minutes may cause more swelling, inflammation and pain.
Call Dr. J Hartley for a complete pain relief evaluation today. Schedule your appointment by calling Hartley Chiropractic and Scoliosis Center in St. Augustine, FL at 904-679-3233.