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Heat or Ice?

"Doc, should I use heat or ice?"  If I only had a dollar for every time I've heard that question.  Bottom line... if you hurt yourself lifting, running, bending or performing any type of sports activity, DON'T Heat It!!!  Have you ever seen a trainer apply heat to an injured athlete?  Have you ever seen a pitcher heat their shoulder after pitching 6 or 7 innings?  No you haven't.  You'll always see these players with ice.  Usually a big bag of ice ace bandaged to the injured or strained area.

So when you're suffering with pain always think of the above scenario.  Ask yourself, why do I hurt?  If you were doing some heavy yard work, if you tweaked your back at the gym, if you twisted your ankle, these are all activity/athletic style injuries which require ice for the first 2-4 days post injury.  Often, if the ice is applied soon enough, the injury will improve in about half the time. 

When you think of ice, think about putting out the fire of inflammation.  When we get hurt, the injury itself creates and inflammatory cascade.  Think about this cascade as a fire in your body.  Would you add heat to put out a fire?  Of course not.  We use ice to put out the fire.  This goes for backs and necks as well as other joints.  Many people wouldn't dream of heating a twisted ankle, but wouldn't hesitate to heat a strained back.  What we need to understand is that there is no difference!  Trainers, chiropractors, PT's, orthopedists; we all treat athletic type injuries the same regardless of location: we treat them with ice.

The obvious question then becomes: So when do I use heat?  The answer is: use heat to reduce chronic stiffness, achiness and tightness.  As we get older and joints become a little arthritic and they can become stiff.  Heating them up can allow improved range of motion at the affected joint and provide immediate comfort.  Chronically tight and sore muscles can also benefit from heat.  I find that people get excellent relief from chronic pain and stiffness by utilizing a combination of electric stimulation with a moist hot pack prior to the chiropractic manipulations I perform.  They're often amazed at just how much looser and better they feel.

Cross Crawl whiteRemember that you'll almost never get yourself into trouble by trying ice first.  On the other hand, heating an already inflamed site can make to pain worse by bringing more inflammation to the area.  Sure heat feels better but if you're unsure, default to ice. 

Another sure fire way to improve chronic pain and stiffness is to begin a "Core Exercise" routine.  You can download the program which I give to my patients for FREE and see me demonstrate it by clicking here.

Eat right, exercise, supplement wisely and maintain a positive mental attitude.  That's how we'll age gracefully, together.

To Your Excellent Health,
Neil Levin, chiropractor, nutritionist, fitness trainer
Practicing in East Northport, NY.  (631) 651-2929