The Top Reasons Why You Should Use Ice or Heat Therapies

September 20th, 2020

Heat is Not the Enemy But Ice is Not the Savior

While many athletes may turn to ice or heat therapies as a cure-all that is not always the case. In fact, there are certain areas where it makes sense to ice or heat and other areas where it would be best to avoid those types of compresses.

For example, many people believe that ice and heat therapies should be used for post-therapy sessions and workouts, they are not necessarily the best options in those cases.

At Fusion Performance, we want to make sure you are using ice and heat therapies in the correct ways. For more information, don’t hesitate to contact us!

Ice and heat therapies, defined

Both ice and heat therapy can work to provide relief for pain when used correctly. A trained physical therapist will know which type, ice or heat, will work best for the type of pain you’re experiencing. 

Ice and heat work in different ways to help reduce painful conditions that many athletes sustain. Heat increases blood flow and enhances the speed at which nutrients are sent to various parts of the body. Ice, however, reduces blood flow and brings down inflammation and swelling. 

The following are a few ways physical therapy uses heat to ease pain:
  • Heat therapy is often used for older or recurring injuries. It can reduce pain when a person is experiencing arthritis or stiff joints.
  • Heating pads, wraps, and gel packs can be used to relieve chronic pain in the neck and lower back.
  • Heat therapy is used for treating and reducing pain for muscle spasms.
There are also specific benefits for using ice therapy, also called cryotherapy, in physical therapy treatment:
  • Icing can reduce pain in injuries such as ligament sprains in the ankles or knees. 
  • Ice therapy is often used for many types of muscle strains.
  • Ice therapy is recommended for new injuries to immediately reduce swelling.

When to use ice and heat therapies

As we previously mentioned, ice and heat can be very beneficial when used correctly. So, you may be wondering, “How exactly should I know I’m using ice and heat in the right situations?”

Well, as stated by Medical News Today, ice can be very beneficial for the treatment of:
  • osteoarthritis
  • a recent injury
  • gout
  • strains
  • tendinitis, or irritation in the tendons following activity
However, ice therapy should not be used if:
  • there is a risk of cramping, as cold can make this worse
  • the person is already cold or the area is already numb
  • there is an open wound or blistered skin
  • the person has some kind of vascular disease or injury, or sympathetic dysfunction, in which a nerve disorder affects blood flow
  • the person is hypersensitive to cold
Similarly, heat therapy can be very beneficial when treating:
  • osteoarthritis
  • strains and sprains
  • tendonitis, or chronic irritation and stiffness in the tendons
  • warming up stiff muscles or tissue before activity
  • relieving pain or spasms relating to neck or back injury, including the lower back
However, heat therapy should not be used if:
  • the skin is hot, red or inflamed
  • the person has dermatitis or an open wound
  • the area is numb
  • the person may be insensitive to heat due to peripheral neuropathy or a similar condition

Looking for more assistance? We can help

If you are still unsure about whether ice or heat therapies would be the right call for you, don’t hesitate to contact Fusion Performance to consult with one of our highly trained physical therapists. 

We’ll help you get on the right course of treatment for your needs so you can get back to living your active and pain-free life!