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  • Writer's pictureDelaney Farmer, LAT, LMT

Ice vs Heat

PRM Sports Therapy

You ever had those thoughts - "boy does my ankle really hurts after that run. I'm having a hard time walking. Or you wake up and your quads are very sore from that workout 2 days ago". You ask yourself, should I grab that ice pack or or hot pack to make myself feel better? Here is my stance on this age old debate. ICE if you are in PAIN and HEAT if you are STIFF or SORE. Now grated, if you are experiencing a gross amount of swelling and its within the first 72 hours of your injury onset, then ice and compression will be your go to solution. But outside of gross swelling, if you are in pain - ice it. If you are stiff or sore, put some heat on it.

Ice is a great medium to effect the nerve endings in the skin's (Thermoreceptor) which will slow down the pain impulses to the brain through the gate theory. In a quick summary of the gate theory, pain signals travels to your brain on a slow pathway. Affecting the thermoreceptor, those signals from the ice will travel to the brain on a fast path. Once at the brain, there is a switch, something similar to a train yard rail switch allowing one train to go on the rails at a time. Since the signal from the ice is traveling faster to the brain, that signal will be feed to the brain over the pain signal, therefor blocking out the pain.

With heat - hotpack, moist hot towel, hot tub, etc, you are increasing the temperature of the tissue by conduction and by increasing the blood flow to that tissue. At this point, the tissue pliability increases allowing for better stretch of the tissue, improving better range of motion at the joint creating overall better movement. Heat feels good and relaxes the tissues.

There can always be exceptions to this rule, but in most part, what I tell all my athletes I work with - ICE if you are in PAIN, HEAT if you are STIFF or SORE.

Delaney Farmer, LAT, LMT, ATC Licensed Athletic Trainer

Licensed Massage Therapist Owner of PRM Sports Therapy

Please consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns about an injury you are experiencing.



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