…that is the question, at least when we’re talking about injuries. Though there is often a lot of public confusion about whether to ice or heat an injury, fortunately the experts are pretty clear.

First, it’s important to know whether the injury is acute or chronic. An acute injury is one that results in sharp pain and is usually caused by a traumatic event. A chronic injury is one that is recurring and usually a duller pain.

Here are some ground rules for using ice and heat in treatment of injuries:

*Always use ice after an acute injury has occurred. Ice will help reduce swelling and pain.
*You can also use ice for a chronic condition, but only after activity to reduce swelling.
*Heat should be used before physical activity, to warm muscle and connective tissue and stimulate blood flow.
*Never use heat after an injury has occurred—and never use heat after physical activity.
*Never use ice before physical activity.

Here are some other good tips for using ice/heat from an online medical blog:

*Before icing, put a small amount of oil on the area you’re going to ice, then cover with cloth before you put the ice pack on.
*Ice for a maximum of 20-30 minutes.
*For heating, warm is better than hot. Your skin should be checked at regular intervals to make sure it’s not burning.

-Keith Paine

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