One of the most common reactions when someone gets hurt or feels pain is to reach for the heat pack. Many times, that is also the BIG mistake. To understand the reason behind this idea, you must first understand the science behind the bodies reaction to an injury. When you experience an injury, your body’s first reaction is inflammation to the area. This inflammation increases the blood flow to the injury so it will receive the oxygen and nutrients to start the healing process. By reaching for the heat pack, you would be overstimulating the blood vessels. This would cause increased inflammation which means more pain for you.
Instead, your goal should be to reduce the inflammation and flush the blood out by using ice. In the first stages of an injury, you want to remember R.I.C.E. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Rest the injury. Eliminate or reduce any weight bearing on the muscles, tendons, or ligaments involved. Ice the area by wrapping an ice pack or bag of ice with a thin towel and placing it on the area for a maximum of 20 minutes. Try not to exceed the 20 minutes. Too much cold can cause more damage to the tissues. Remove the ice for another 20 minutes and then repeat the cycle. Next, you should wrap the area with a sports wrap to help control the inflammation. Finally, elevate the area to reduce the blood flow and decrease the inflammation as well. Continue this process for 48 hours. If there is no improvement, consult a doctor or professional for the best advice and treatment.
Have you used ice and/or heat on an injury before? Share your experience below.