What’s the best way to ease your aches and pains?
This is one questions we osteopaths get asked all the time. Using ice or heat sounds like a good idea when you’re in pain. It’s a drug free, cheap and easy way to get some relief… but lots of our patients are concerned about making the wrong choice and potentially worsening the problem. There are just a few rules to abide by:
- Take care with the heat you’re applying – don’t burn your skin! It sounds obvious but we often see patients with scolded skin from using a very hot water bottle.
- Don’t use ice for too long – over 10-15 minutes and the useful anti-inflammatory action is no longer effective.
- When pregnant – avoid using heat near your abdomen. Overheating your tummy in pregnancy can increase your core temperature which isn’t optimal for the baby.
Here’s a simple guide:
When to cool things down
- Within the first 24-48 hours after an injury using ice is the safest bet. Fresh ankle sprains or a newly strained back will most often benefit from the anti-inflammatory action of an ice pack. Theoretically it can help reduce joint swelling and ease pain, though research increasingly shows that compression is better for this purpose.
- Immediately after a hard workout ice can reduce soreness. Andy Murray famously used ice baths after his Wimbledon matches to improve his muscle recovery. http://www.runningshoesguru.com/2014/11/how-to-take-an-ice-bath-the-right-way/#
- Try ice on injuries that feel hot to the touch or throbbing in nature. Heat is a sign of inflammation (or possible infection) – something cold is the better choice in this circumstance.
If using ice, wrap it in a towel and avoid direct contact with the skin. There are also great cooling gels such as Biofreeze which are handy if you’re working or travelling.
When to use soothing heat
- A day or two after a workout heat can be useful for opening up blood vessels in tired muscles. Heat applied to the skin won’t always get deeply into the muscles that need it. Ideally this would be supplemented with light exercise such as walking or cycling.
- Chronic soreness such as low back ache can be eased with a warm bath or shower.
- Try heat on an injury which is a few days old. At this point the inflammation will have reduced – warmth can improve circulation in the area to help deliver essential oxygen and nutrients to the tissues.
When using heat, again avoid direct contact of a heat pack or hot water bottle with the skin. Leave it on for 20 mins or until it cools down, and make sure your skin has returned to normal temperature before reapplying.
The right treatment for your problem is best discussed with a healthcare professional and we love to help! Call us or book online to get tailored advice and care.