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Both ice and heat can positively influence the healing of injuries and help reduce pain or stiffness. However, to be effective they need to be used appropriately.
Used to reduce inflammation, for new injuries, and for swelling — all of which the tissue is likely strained and damaged. Inflammation is not to be diminished, as it is the body’s natural response to promote healing. However, when the acute swelling and pain is excessive ice can help to relieve both.
The soothing relief that heat delivers is great relief for stiffness, tight/tense muscles, aching joints, and chronic, prolonged injuries of the like. When heat is applied to an area the blood vessels are opened up, improving flexibility of tendons and ligaments.
NOTE: Heat should not be applied until inflammation (i.e. physical swelling) has been reduced, as it can increase inflammation.
REMEMBER tight muscles may be prone to injury. If you are unable to heat before an athletic event, practice, or exercising be sure to warm up your body. This may include gentle, active stretching, riding a bike, taking a brisk walk, using light weights to do Physical Therapy exercises to warm up specific areas of the body, etc.