What do you reach for when you have pain?
When something hurts, a common question that arises in one’s mind is whether to use an ice pack or a hot pack. And, most of the time, in my experience, the hot pack wins!! When it should be the other way around. Either because we saw our elderly using the hot water bag all the time or because warm water makes us feel good, heat treatment is used more than it should, sometimes causing further harm.It is common knowledge in the western world that when you have an injury, the first line of treatment is ice.
In fact, there is an acronym for this. It is:
- P= protect the area
- R= rest the area for at least 12 hours
- I= ice pack till pain and swelling subsides
- C= compression (wrap the area with a bandage if swollen) and
- E= elevation.A majority of injuries respond to ice treatment.
It is very difficult to go wrong with ice. On the contrary, if you do heat treatment to an inflamed area, it can potentially worsen the condition. Just remember, never to use ice pack for more than 10 - 15 minutes at a time and wait 40 minutes before the next application.
Now, you may ask, when to use a hot pack. The only time a hot pack is truly effective is when you have a muscle spasm or joint/back stiffness. Even then, using moist heat is better than a dry hot pack. For example, a hot bath or the hot water bag is better than the electrical heating pad. So, when in doubt, use an Ice Pack.