Generally speaking, it could be briefed that Ice is to be used for injuries, and heat for muscles.
- Ice / injuries — injured tissues always follow a particular pathway process consisting of inflammation, redness, heat and swelling. Inflammation is the precursor to the remaining effects. The inflammatory process is a healthy, normal, natural process … that also happens to be incredibly painful. Icing is mostly just a mild, drugless way of controlling the pain of inflammation.
- Heat / muscles — mostly used to edge off the pain of whole muscle spasms and for easing psychological stress, often causative of painful musculoskeletal conditions Think of when you take a hot bath.
Heat can make inflammation worse and ice can increase muscle spasms, so they both have the potential to do some mild harm when mixed up.
- If you add heat to an inflammatory process, it will most likely result in increased redness, swelling and pain.
- If you use ice over painful muscles, it will most likely result in deteriorating the condition. Tight muscles are likely to contract even harder, and the trigger points burn and ache even more acutely.
In the case of a muscle injury, ice is usually preferred. Injured muscles go through the same healing process: inflammation, redness, heat and swelling.
- However, its application has a much shorter span, In fact, as soon as the inflammatory process is under control (usually between 12 to 72 hours for small to moderate muscle injuries) one should switch to heat.
- Commonly, alternation between ice and heat packs, on injured muscles, speed up the immune response resulting in faster healing