Fire and Ice: Which works best for your pain?

April 11, 2018

Fire and Ice: Which works best for your pain?

Fire And Ice:
Which works best for your pain? 

By Dr. Richard Garian

Whether you’re struggling with chronic joint pain or just wrenched your back, you need pain relief now. And while you’re waiting for pain relievers to kick in – whether they’re natural or pharmaceutical – you can get started on easing that pain with ice or heat.

The trick is in knowing when to use which… because getting that wrong can make everything worse.

Ice works better for injuries because it numbs pain by constricting blood vessels, which slows blood flow to the affected area. This action also limits inflammation and bruising. Use ice when you see swelling, redness, bruising.

Heat, which is best for chronic pain, does just the opposite: It increases blood flow to the area, and that helps relax tense muscles and soothe aching joints. Use heat when your pain persists for a long period of time.

Basically, ice works best for new and acute injuries, while heat works best for chronic conditions… but, of course, as with all “rules,” exceptions apply.

Sprains and strains: Start with ice to decrease inflammation and swelling while numbing the pain. After the inflammation is resolved – which can take days – switch to heat to reduce stiffness. 

Headache pain: Cold masks or frozen washcloths across your forehead, eyes, and temples can tame the throbbing pain of migraines and tension headaches. If your headache was brought on by neck spasms, a moist heat wrap around your neck can calm those, and keep your headache from returning.

Chronic arthritis pain: Use heat (dry or moist) to soothe chronically stiff, aching joints. 

Acute arthritis or gout flare-ups: Ice numbs the pain of occasional agonizing flare-ups, and calms the acute inflammation that comes with them.

Whichever works best for your situation – apply the heat or ice for 20 minutes, then take at least a 20 minute break before reapplying.

Caution: Wrong Way!

Never use heat with new acute injuries – it increases inflammation and delays healing.

Don’t use ice on muscles in spasm – it can increase tension and make those spasms worse.

Wait before using ice when you’re shivering cold or heat when you’re sweltering hot – excess heat or cold can act like a threat warning to your brain, and that can increase pain signals.



Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in Bone and Joint Health Support

A Happy, Healthy, Stress- Free Holiday Season!
A Happy, Healthy, Stress- Free Holiday Season!

December 10, 2019

The Holiday Season is a potentially overwhelming time of the year. Not only are work demands often escalated toward the year’s end, but personal time is also extremely taxing with planning, cleaning, cooking, shopping, partying, etc.  Time is limited and nutritious meals may be far and few between, as are a solid nights’ sleep. Emotions are in high gear. 

View full article →

A Happy and Healthy Holiday Season! MOVEMENT
A Happy and Healthy Holiday Season! MOVEMENT

December 05, 2019

No better time to begin our discussion on joint health than this time of year when the cold weather may negatively affect joint health. Some believe that the colder weather affects our joints as a drop in barometric pressure  increases pressure within the joint capsule; and a thickening of synovial fluid within the joint capsule affects flexibility.

View full article →

A Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving!  TURKEY!
A Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving!  TURKEY!

November 25, 2019

Thanksgiving gives us a good excuse to discuss the benefits of turkey – with the idea that perhaps it is worth considering making it more of a dietary staple throughout the year rather than mainly reserving it for this special day. As with all food, the source of the turkey determines how good it tastes and how nutritious it is.  

View full article →