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Is it better to use heat or cold on a muscle strain or other injury?

By September 2, 2008 - 8:26am
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How do I know when I should use a heating pad on an injury vs. a cold pack? Do they do the same thing? Is heat better than ice for some injuries? Thanks.

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Just as Free2Bme said: the R.I.C.E. method for treating muscle swelling and inflammation is usually the first step to bring down the swelling and encourage muscle repair and recovery. As a distance runner and coach, I often deal with sore muscles, and I tell my charges that the ice bath will become their new best friend. We even have an ice bath - a large trash can filled with ice and water - on hand for after our Saturday morning training runs when our feet are swollen and our thighs "burning."

Heat, whether via a heating pad or topical ointment, is more for relaxing tense muscles and muscle spasms. When I was undergoing physical therapy for a torn rotator cuff, my therapist applied "icy heat" to my shoulder.

In both cases, you need to exercise care and caution so that you don't burn your muscles - frost bite can happen with an ice pack and too much heat can burn your skin.

On Ice and heat packs

September 2, 2008 - 4:26pm
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