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Muscle Injuries Ice or Heat

When to use ice or heat on an injury

If you train daily like most bodybuilders, chances are you've encountered delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), muscle/tendon strains, ligament sprains and or muscle spasms. The repetitive nature of weight training, in addition to the high volume and intensity required to make continuous progress puts a tremendous amount of stress on the body. The stress your body undergoes occasionally causes it to breakdown, particularly if you use less than textbook form, which can lead to various musculoskeletal ailments. The athlete in you is often looking for ways to minimize downtime and return to the weight room. Two therapeutic aids that are easily accessible, and frequently underestimated in terms of effectiveness, are ice and heat. In sports-medicine clinics, heat and ice are two of the most commonly used therapeutic remedies to treat injuries. Both offer benefits, but athletes commonly confuse when to use heat or ice.

Cryotherapy is the medical term for applying cold in the form of ice packs, cold packs or whirlpools at a temperature between 31-66 degrees F. These cold therapeutic methods cause heat to be taken away from the body and is consumed by the cold origin until temperatures within the body are equal. During the process of cryotherapy, the human body will usually respond with numerous physiological aftereffects such as decreased diameter of blood vessels also known as vasoconstriction. More effects of cryotherapy include decreased pain, decreased inflammation, and decreased metabolic rate to the area. The depth, magnitude and duration of the effects of cryotherapy are based on the treatment used and the tissues being treated. The rate of heat exchange between the tissue and the cold source is primarily determined by the temperature difference between the two. Greater difference equals more rapid exchange of heat and deeper effects of the treatment. In addition to treatment time, the amount of adipose (fat) tissue is also a limiting factor in the effective depth of penetration. A leaner person can get away with less icing time than a heftier subject. Additionally, tissues that have more mass need longer treatment time than tissues with less mass. Regardless of the tissue properties, treatment time or cold source used, the depth of penetration for cold is limited to 5 centimeters. Cold applications can be used for acute injuries that are less than three days old, inflammation, pain, muscle spasm and diminished range of motion.

Another healing method is thermotherapy, the medical term for applying superficial or deep heat to tissues. Thermotherapy uses heating products such as whirlpools and hot packs. In order to be effective, these whirlpools and hot packs must increase the skin temperature in the ranges of 103-114 F to produce therapeutic results. These remedies are limited to depths of 2 centimeters or less. The effects of heat on metabolic rate, blood/fluid dynamics and inflammation are generally opposite to those of cold. Both heat and cold applications decrease pain and muscle spasm by altering the threshold of nerve endings. Superficial heat applications work best with chronic conditions and or sub-acute conditions. Chronic conditions include injuries that are more than four days old or cases of chronic tendonitis.

Cold penetrates deeper and its effects last longer than those of heat. Heat causes an increase in the diameter of the blood vessels (vasodilatation) and delivers cool blood to the area while warmer blood is transported away. In contrast, cold application causes a decrease in the diameter of the blood vessel, which results in a decreased amount of blood arriving to the warm area. You can use both heat and cold to achieve several treatment goals such as decreased pain, decreased muscle spasm and increased range of motion.

The decision to use heat or ice, then, depends on the type of injury, when it occurred and the type of restrictions present.

Remember to use heat or ice for no more than 20 minutes at a time. Application is especially useful before or after exercise. Donít apply directly to the ksin. Instead use a bag of crushed ice or even a frozen bag of peas to conform to odd-shaped areas of the body. Ultimately pain is a signal that something is wrong, so you may have to adapt your training to ensure you donít aggravate an injury. Moreover, you donít want to apply the wrong kind of treatment to a painful area and make a bad situation even worse.

This following suggests when to use heat or ice:

Conditions for Heat vs. Ice:

-Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after a tough workout: Heat

-Acute sprain or strain less than three days old: Ice

-Spain or strain more than four days old: Heat

-Muscle Spasm: Heat

-Inflammation around joint or muscle tissue: Ice

-Hematoma (Bruise): Heat

-Range of motion restriction because of pain: Ice

-Range of motion restriction because of stiffness: Heat

I also use Naturally Painless Spray on any and all of the above.

Muscle Injuries Ice or Heat


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