Thousands of athletes are injured during athletics each and every day, and thankfully most of these injuries are only of the mild or moderate variety. Even so, these sports injuries can knock you off your feet for a few days and leave you wondering what’s the best way to treat them. Rest and physical therapy are two great options, but patients often wonder whether icing or heating the area would help. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at which sports injuries would benefit from a cooling regimen, and which ones you might want to consider heat therapy for.
Icing Or Heating Sports Injuries
Before we dive into specifics, it’s important that we remind readers that a hot/cold regimen is a passive technique, and that active treatments like stretching, physical therapy and gentle exercise will help provide more long-term benefits. With that said, hot or cold therapy can help to relieve some symptoms and provide some short-term benefits. Here’s a look at which sports injuries may respond best to either treatment.
Muscles Strains and Tears – ICE
Muscle strains and tears will respond better to ice than heat. That’s because when a muscle tears, oftentimes the area swells as the body works to protect the area. Swelling can offer some protection, but it can also cause stiffness and weakness in nearby muscles and joints. That’s why you want to work to control swelling after an injury. That’s exactly what ice and cold therapy does. Cold temperatures cause the veins to constrict, limiting the amount of blood flow and in turn swelling in an area. Work to control swelling from muscle tears with cold therapy, which involves icing the area a couple times a day for 15-20 minutes each session.
Tight Muscles – HEAT
If you’re dealing with some muscle tightness or you’re struggling to help a muscle group get loose, consider some heat therapy. Heat therapy does the opposite of cold therapy in that heat will help expand blood vessels and bring healthy blood to the area. Having a healthy source of blood flow will help muscles loosen up and prepare for movement. Treat tight or stiff muscles with heat therapy or by soaking in a hot bath for 20 minutes.
Sprained Ankles – ICE
Sprained ankles are one of the most common sporting injuries, and oftentimes ice is a helpful short-term remedy. Again, this will help to control swelling in the area so that movement isn’t overly restricted. This will allow you to pursue other treatment options more readily, like physical therapy. PT is great for sprained ankles because you’re going to want to work to strengthen the injured ligaments that support your ankle joint, and rest alone won’t help you get back to pre-injury levels of stability. Icing can help you begin a PT routine more quickly, which in turn will help you get back on the court sooner.
Muscle Spasms Or Scar Tissue – HEAT
A muscle spasm suggests that a muscle is either overworked, dehydrated or not receiving a healthy blood supply. Resting, drinking water and heating the area can help bring an end to your muscle spasms. Similarly, if you have scar tissue in an area from a previous injury or surgery, it may take a little extra effort to help prepare it for sporting activity. Heat therapy can help bring healthy blood to the area so that it’s prepared for upcoming movements.
Finally, it’s also worth noting that there are times when you definitely should not use ice or heat to treat a sports injury. For example, open wounds, concussions and numb areas should not be treated with either technique, and instead would benefit from an evaluation by a medical specialist.
If you want to learn more about how heat or ice therapy can be part of a comprehensive rehab routine, reach out to the experienced team at OrthoRehab Specialists today.