Ice or Heat? Which one do I use?

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inflammation pic

One of the most frequent questions I get asked by patients every week is ‘So do I use heat or ice for my neck pain?’

The answer is Ice!!!

With any injury, sprain or strain where a joint or muscle has been stressed to the extreme and causes pain and dysfunction, then ice should be applied immediately. The instant effect of ice is to reduce the swelling and inflammation around the injured area. This in turn reduces the pain and discomfort, thus allowing for easier range of motion in the joint and general function.

A good example I use at my clinic is:

If you were to sprain your ankle and the joint became black and blue, swollen and extremely painful then you would rest, ice and take the pressure of it. The problem with the neck and back is that there are so many smaller joints either side of the spine that can become inflamed due to everyday activities, work, posture, sport and exercise. These smaller joints sometimes do not appear to be as severe as maybe an ankle would present.

Due to the fact that we may not need to rest or take time of work with back and neck pain, we simply continue as normal, thus aggravating the inflamed joints and irritated muscles.

Best advice is to listen to your body when it tells you something is wrong or gives you a hint that something is brewing. Lastly, always use ICE instead of heat with inflammation type injuries or conditions as the heat can actually make things worse is some cases.

Tips – 15 minutes on, 15 minutes back in the freezer
– Repeat this three times