April 2015

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It’s an age-old question among athletes: Should you use ice or heat after an injury?

Jumping into an ice bath might not be the most comfortable situation, but ice is the most effective treatment for acute injuries, experts say.

“You should never heat the immediate area after injury,” says Erin Corbo, PDT, physical therapist at Hospital for Special Surgeries. “As a rule of thumb, between five to seven days after immediate injury, you should always ice.”

Icing a strained or sprained muscle can help reduce swelling and inflammation and control pain by constricting blood vessels in the skin to decrease blood flow.

But that doesn’t mean you have to forgo your heat pads for good. Heating promotes blood flow and warmth throughout your muscles, and can be administered with a heating pad or even through physical activity.

“We usually won’t use direct heat, but we have people warm up on a bike,” Corbo tells Yahoo Health.

You can also go for a light jog or walk. This wakes and warms up tight, overused, or injured muscles for a workout or physical therapy session. Injuries should then be followed up with ice.

Think you can find a quick fix in pain-relieving creams like Bengay, Icy Hot, and Tiger Balm? While they might temporarily soothe muscles, they can actually mask pain and could lead to a more intense muscle strain, Corbo says.

Although most injuries call for ice first, certain cases call for specific treatment plans. Here are six commons aches, strains, and sprains and how to treat them… (continue reading)