Quick Tip: Heat vs. Ice

When you begin a new training routine, you might experience tight and/or sore muscles, or even joint pain. Do you know when to use heat vs. ice? And at what point you should see a doctor?

It’s important to know the difference between what ice and heat do to your body. If you get the two mixed up, it could exasperate your pain and delay recovery. A good rule of thumb is to use heat for muscles and ice for injuries. If you ice a sore muscle, it can restrict blood flow to the area, causing more intense pain. Likewise, if you put heat on a fresh injury, it will cause blood to flow into the area, irritating the inflammation and making things worse.

As always, take your own judgement into account. If neither ice nor heat alleviate a sore muscle or an injury, then it might be time to consult a medical professional.

If the pain is unbearable, you’re bleeding profusely, and/or you can see bone or muscle, go to the emergency room/ hospital immediately.

Heat

Make sure you don't put the heat source directly on your skin. Always have a barrier, such as a thin piece of cloth. Heat promotes blood flow, forcing the muscles to relax, which is good for sore, overworked muscles.
 

Make Your Own:

 

Don't have a heating pad and need one in a pinch? You can easily make your own: Take an old, clean sock and fill it three-quarters full with uncooked rice, corn barley, or oatmeal. Tie or sew it shut and heat it in the microwave for 1–2 minutes. To prevent burns, always test a heating pad on the inside of the arm before applying it to the affected area.

Ice

Ice restricts blood flow, which can help slow inflammation. Don't place ice directly on your skin, have it wrapped in a towel. Ice injuries for the first few days, then you can switch to heat. 

 

Make Your Own

 

A good ole' bag of frozen vegetables works great as a makeshift ice pack. Ice cubes in a plastic ziplock bag is fine too, but can be messy as the ice begins to melt. Be sure to wrap your ice pack in a cloth before placing it on your skin. 
 

Always consult a doctor before starting any new exercise or diet routine and follow all safety protocols for appropriate social distancing.

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