It’s hard to get through life without straining a muscle, suffering a headache or hurting your back. And the longer you’re on the planet, the more susceptible you are to arthritis. When something hurts, will ice or heat make it feel better?
Sports injuries: Ice wins for acute pain, inflammation and swelling. Heat perpetuates the cycle of inflammation and can be harmful. Moist heat helps to loosen injured muscles before activity or stretching. Icing afterward can minimize pain.
Headaches: Cool masks or wraps over the forehead, eyes and temples help throbbing pain of a migraine, but heat wraps can halt neck spasms that contribute to headache.Arthritis: Heat wins for arthritis and injuries that linger more than six weeks. “Patients with more chronic osteoarthritis usually feel better with heat,” says rheumatologist Linda Mileti, MD.
You can apply ice and heat in different ways, for instance :
Ice packs: Frozen peas, ice cubes in a bag or frozen gel packs. You can ice beyond 48 hours, until swelling, tenderness or inflammation are gone.
Moist heat: Enjoy a bath, shower using warm, not hot, water, or use a moist heat pad.
When using ice or heat use caution on areas with decreased sensation if you have neuropathy (from diabetes or another condition).