Ice or heat?

A moment of distraction or maybe even a simple gesture and hop … an injury occurs so rapidly. Indeed, we must act quickly if you do not want to delay the healing, so what to do?

The acute phase

Following a trauma, we go in the inflammatory phase or the acute phase. This phase usually lasts between seven and ten days and is characterized by local redness, local heat, swelling and hardening of tissues. It is during this phase that the ice has a beneficial effect. Indeed, applying ice locally 10 to 15 minutes every 2 to 3 hours. It will, among other things, reduce the risk of internal bleeding, relieve pain and reduce inflammation by slowing blood flow. During the acute phase, it is not recommanded to use heat.

The subacute stage

When the inflammatory phase is over, most of the damaged tissues are repaired, but the repair is not complete. It is at this point that the heat will be most effective. The locally applied heat should be 20 to 25 min every 2 to 3 hours also. This will reduce the residual pain while increasing blood circulation, promote tissue healing. The heat will also decrease muscle spasms.

In addition, during this phase we usually think we’re fine and do what we usually do on a day to day basis and often it causes again a little inflammation. Ice will once more set to come quickly stop the inflammatory response.

In conclusion, the proper application of ice or heat plays a very important role for a return to normal function quickly. Obviously, if your symptoms persist, do not hesitate to consult a health professional.

For more details on this topic, we invite you to read this document available on the website of the College of Physiotherapists of Quebec (OPPQ).