Ice It Or Heat It? What To Do About 6 Common Sports Injuries

It’s an age-old question among athletes: Should you use ice or heat after an injury?

Jumping into an ice bath might not be the most comfortable situation, but ice is the most effective treatment for acute injuries, experts say.

You should never heat the immediate area after injury. As a rule of thumb, between five to seven days after immediate injury, you should always ice.

Icing a strained or sprained muscle can help reduce swelling and inflammation and control pain by constricting blood vessels in the skin to decrease blood flow.

But that doesn’t mean you have to forgo your heat pads for good. Heating promotes blood flow and warmth throughout your muscles, and can be administered with a heating pad or even through physical activity.

You can also go for a light jog or walk. This wakes and warms up tight, overused, or injured muscles for a workout or physical therapy session. Injuries should then be followed up with ice.

Think you can find a quick fix in pain-relieving creams like Bengay, Icy Hot, and Tiger Balm? While they might temporarily soothe muscles, they can actually mask pain and could lead to a more intense muscle strain.

Although most injuries call for ice first, certain cases call for specific treatment plans. Here are six commons aches, strains, and sprains and how to treat them:

A Rolled Ankle

Rolled ankles are no small thing — and can sometimes take weeks to heal. It is recommended to follow the RICE (rest, ice, compress, elevate) Method after injury.

A Pulled Hamstring Or Thigh Muscle

Use ice directly after injury. After a few days, use a heating pad on the muscle or warm up with physical activity prior to a workout or physical therapy session.

Shoulder Pain

Use ice directly after injury. After a few days, use a heating pad to warm up the muscle (do not warm up using physical exertion) about 5 to 10 minutes before a workout or physical therapy session, and ice at the end.

Shin Splints

It is recommended to use freezing water in a small paper cup and then rubbing the ice directly on the shin for about 5 minutes.

Pulled Groin Muscle

Use ice directly after injury. After a few days, use a heating pad to warm up the muscle (do not warm up using physical exertion) about 5 to 10 minutes before a workout or physical therapy session, and ice at the end.

Overused IT (Iliotibial) Band

Warm up on a bike or elliptical — you should never use a heating pad on the IT band. Ice at the end of the workout or physical therapy session. The IT band is a pretty sensitive muscle and most likely will need more specific physical therapy.

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