Both ice and heat have been used to treat pain for multiple types of injuries and pains. Both can be highly effective in eliminating pain depending on the situation. Whether you should use ice or heat really boils down to the type of pain you are experiencing and the source of the pain. We give a few examples below: Headaches – Often, headaches are a result of tension or tightness of muscles and nerves in the neck and head area. When tightening of muscles occurs, it can restrict the flow of blood that carries oxygen to the body. While it may seem comforting to place a cold wrap over your head when you have a headache, heat is actually a better treatment to relieve the tension and allow the blood to flow the way it should. Injuries – Sprained ankles, twisted knees and a tweaked lower back are all unfortunate and rather painful injuries. Often, those involved in sports will at some point or another experience some kind of injury small or large. When we are experiencing this pain, we might think that a soak in the hot tub or a warm compress would be the best answer. However, experience shows that ice is a better solution for pain stemming from an injury. Heat can actually make things worse by perpetuating any inflammation an injury may have caused. Arthritis – We tend to associate pain with heat and instinctively reach for something cold to relieve pain when we experience it. Ice and cold packs may offer some initial relief when it comes to pain stemming from arthritis, but heat is a better long-term solution. Using moist heat promotes muscle relaxation and eases stiff joints. Keep in mind that heat is typically suggested for pain that lasts longer than 6 weeks. Gout Flare-Ups – When you are experiencing immediate pain from a gout flare-up, ice is the better choice for numbing pain. This is also true for tendinitis. Use ice whenever you notice an acute irritation in tendons attached to joints, such as the elbow, ankle, shoulder, knee, etc. In some cases, alternating between ice and heat can help ease pain. This is true in the case of a sprained ankle. The pain caused from the tearing of the ligaments in a joint can be numbed temporarily with ice treatment, but heat will help relieve stiffness once the initial inflammation goes away. If you have questions about how to treat your chronic pain from old injuries or arthritis, be sure to give Arrowhead Health Centers a call. Our multi-disciplinary staff includes pain management specialists as well as physicians and therapists who can help to treat your pain. We can be reached at 623-334-4000 and are happy to answer any questions you might have.
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