Every week I will answer a question or series of questions about chiropractic.

This weeks question comes from D.W.When should I use ice and when should I use heat?As a musculoskeletal specialist I am asked on a daily basis “should I use ice, or should I use heat?”  There is a lot of confusion in differentiating the application of this important treatment modality. If we look at the drivers of the condition being treated we can gain a greater understanding of which modality (ice or heat) is most appropriate.Rules of Thumb:Ice should be used for injuries that occurred no more than 6 weeks ago. These injuries are referred to as acute. Acute quite literally means ‘of short duration’, so those injuries that occurred recently should be iced.legtomb-596506_1920Ice restricts blood vessels, numbs pain, reduces inflammation, and minimizes bruising.Heat should be used for injuries that occurred greater than 6 weeks ago, as well as for arthritis and stiff joints.christmas-916849_1920Heat increases blood flow which helps in relaxing tight muscles and alleviating pain associated with aching joints.Common Conditions

Arthritis: Cartilage in joints that has deteriorated. Commonly seen in hands, elbows, knees, and shoulders

Moist heat will ease joints that are chronically stiff and immobile.

Gout Flare-ups: Chronic inflammatory arthritis that most commonly occurs in the big toe. Also can be found in the ankle, heel, elbow, wrist, and fingers

Ice will calm down the inflammation and numb some of the pain

Headache: Pain as a result of muscles in the upper neck, or blood vessels in the head.

Ice will numb throbbing head pain

Moist heat will relax muscle spasms of the neck

Strains: Pulled or injured muscle

Ice will calm down the inflammation and numb some of the pain

Heat will ease stiffness after the inflammation has gone away (after 6 weeks)

Sprains: Stretching or tearing of ligaments within the joints

Ice will calm down the inflammation and numb some of the pain

Heat will ease stiffness after the inflammation has gone away (after 6 weeks)

Tendonitis: Acute irritation after activity that is seen with tendons attaching to and supporting joints

Ice will calm down inflammation. Tendonitis is acute in nature, so only use ice.

Feel free to leave any comments or questions below!