To understand the true effects of heat and ice for therapeutic purposes, let's keep in mind that inflammation occurs in our bloodstream. It is a crucial process, but heat and ice do have an effect on inflammation and therefore our sensation of paint.
Ice is a vasoconstrictor, so it narrows the blood vessels and decreases blood flow. This will help reduce inflammation, cellular metabolism, and decrease our sensation of pain.
Heat is a vasodilator, opening up your blood vessels promotes more blood flow and increases inflammation, cellular metabolism, and muscle relaxation.
Our general recommendation at Forward Spine Center to utilize ice for 48 hours following an injury to help reduce pain, inflammation, and allow you to feel better while the healing process is occurring. Ice is very valuable on the front end.
After that 48 hour period, we recommend using heat. Heat will allow a controlled inflammatory response and help accelerate recovery and the healing process.
We recommend heat and or ice, given the above guidelines, for up to 20 minutes every 2-3 hours. This is a great form of at home self-care. That way we can avoid any over-the-counter prescription medications to help manage our symptoms.