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To Ice or Not to Ice

When your body's hurting it feels comforting to put a hot water bottle or a heating pad on the sore areas. But it may not always be a great idea. Heat can aggravate your injuries and prolong your pain. When should you use heat and when should you use ice? If you're ever in doubt use ice, but here are some guidelines.

use ice if:

your injury (e.g., muscle pull, strain, sports injury) is recent
(within 48 hours following the injury)

your muscles are in spasm

why ice?
Ice will reduce inflammation and decrease the time it takes for your injury to heal. It also has an anesthetic effect that will lessen your pain and relax muscle spasms.

use heat if:

your injury is chronic
(more than 48 hours old)

your muscles are tense

you have pain that's the result of trigger points or muscle knots

why heat?
In either of these cases, there is no danger of aggravating the inflammation. The heat will relax your muscles and help improve your circulation.

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