How Do I Know Whether to Use Ice or Heat for Pain?

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Knowing when to use ice and heat for pain is knowing what type of injury you have. So, first of all, if you have an acute injury or an injury that happened right away, so you sprained your ankle and you have a lot of ankle swelling. Whenever you see swelling involved with that, first of all, you should make sure that it's nothing more serious like a broken bone, but once you're sure that this is just a sprain or a swelling involved, you can apply ice to this, you never want to apply heat to an area that is swollen, always apply ice.

Now with respect to heat, heat is also very useful and it's useful once the swelling has gone down and you have more of a chronic injury. So, for example, people that have runner's knee or chronic low back pain, still want to get out and do physical therapy, they still want to go out and do exercises, go to the gym, what I recommend, is that you heat the area for about 20 minutes, no more than that, do the exercise, and then once you're done with the exercise, ice the area. So it's very important to know the application process. Heat, then activity, then after activity, ice. You never want to apply ice to a muscle that has never been exercised or worked before, you only want to apply ice straight to acutely inflamed or swollen joint or area.