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When To Use Heat vs Ice Therapy

When To Use Heat vs Ice Therapy

One question that comes up a lot here at Old Bones Therapy is when to use heat vs ice therapy. When used correctly heat and ice can sooth our aches and pains and vastly increase injury healing time. But if used incorrectly heat or ice can exacerbate an existing problem. We're here to explain the differences and benefits between cold therapy and heat therapy and when to use each for optimal results.

Ice Therapy

When you have an injury or body part that is inflammed or swollen then you want to use ice and cold therapy. Athletes and weekend warriors can be pretty hard on their bodies. Often over using or pulling muscles, sprained ankles, twisted knees, etc can all lead to inflammation. The best thing you can do is immediately administer some form of cold therapy which will assist in reducing the inflammation and swelling. When you apply ice to swollen muscles, the cold constricts blood vessels and reduces blood flow to the area, and pain, swelling, and inflammation decrease. When applied correctly, often over 3 to 5 days, cold therapy will not only help with numbing the pain, but speed up the recovery process.


Heat Therapy

Heat increases circulation and raises skin temperature, which is great for soothing and relaxing stiff and tired muscles. On the other hand, the increased blood flow can cause inflammation and swelling to get worse. This is why it's important to never put heat on an injury. Heat therapy has been associated with relieving and eliminating lower back pain, muscle spasms, arthritis and menstrual cramps. I know from my own personal experience that heat really helps me to relax and get my lower back loosened up in the morning when I wake up super stiff and sore.


Alternating Heat and Cold Therapy

Based on certain situations, both heat and cold therapy can be appropriate and really make a big difference in the recovery process. However, it is very important to understand when and why to use the two together. General consensus is to treat a fresh injury with ice for the first few days in order to get the inflammation and swelling down. Only then is it appropriate to apply heat which will increase circulation and blood flow. By alternating between ice and heat therapy every 10-20 mins, you increase circulation to your injured area while helping with the swelling and pain. Used together, hot and cold therapy can work together to speed up the recovery process.

As you can see it's not uncommon for an individual to be completely confused about what type of therapy to use. Remember the rules above and listen to your body. That said, here are 3 easy to remember guidelines:

  • When a person has been injured it is important to reduce the inflammation immediately with ice.
  • Use heat to relax and soothe sore muscles and increase range of motion.
  • Never use heat on a fresh injury or body part that is inflamed or swollen.

Until next time... Here's to keeping you active and ruling at life!

Brandon Fields

Founder @ Old Bones Therapy

Here's Why You Should Wear a Knee Sleeve - Before or After an Injury

Here's Why You Should Wear a Knee Sleeve - Before or After an Injury

When it comes to playing sports or being active there is one common understanding. It can, and will, put your body at a higher risk for injury and strains. This is why it’s so common to see professional athletes wearing compression knee sleeves.

Knee sleeves are usually made with a highly elastic, flexible and often breathable material. This allows the sleeve to hug your knee while allowing full range of motion. It slips over the foot and must be pulled up and over the knee. Many sleeves contain gel padding to help hold the patella in place and some even have side stabilizers.

Whether you’re into extreme sports or leisurely activities, knee sleeves provide extra support and serve to protect the knee joint from taking any more damage or worsening an existing injury. They’ve also been shown to be extremely useful after an injury by reducing pain, lowering swelling and easing stiffness.

After injury the knee immediately begins to protect itself by swelling and becoming stiff. This swelling can be dangerous if not controlled with rest, ice, compression and elevation. Furthermore movement of the knee has been shown to help in early knee rehabilitation by aiding the recovery process. The addition of a compression knee sleeve at this stage reduces swelling.

Compression also provides for increased blood flow which helps to reduce pain and heal faster. Improved blood flow enhances the delivery of oxygen to damaged tissue. Compression also reduces swelling, especially when used in conjunction with cold therapy. The combination of improved blood flow and reduced swelling enables your knees to repair and heal faster.

Proprioception “involves an individual's ability to perceive the position of a joint without the aid of vision” and is a rarely discussed benefit of compression knee sleeves. I like to describe it as that subconscious feeling we have that there is something securing and protecting our knee, even if it is only in our minds.

Because mobility of the knee is so important in regaining strength, orthopedic surgeons suggest wearing knee sleeves before and after surgery in order to keep the swelling down. Less swelling will allow the knee to achieve full range of motion and get you back to ruling at life.

Lucky for you Old Bones Therapy has got your back... and knees too!

For more information on the Old Bones Therapy Knee Sleeve Support and Knee Ice Wrap, click here.

5 Simple Stretches For Lower Back Pain

5 Simple Stretches For Lower Back Pain

If you suffer from chronic back pain then you owe it to yourself to check out these 5 simple stretches for lower back pain.

I've been going to Physical Therapy now for about 6 months in order to work out the kinks in my back and strengthen my core muscles. My therapist always begins our sessions with a series of stretches which i've found really works, no matter how stiff or sore I am.

I perform these almost every single morning in order to loosen up the muscles and discs in my back. It's really helped to jump start my day and get the blood flowing in my lower back. Even better is that it only takes a few minutes to go through these stretches and get on with your day.

For each of these stretches you can do 10 reps, over 1 - 2 sets.

Cat Cow

I start off with some cat cow stretches to loosen up my back. When i'm finished with cat cows i'll actually do what I call the "Butt Wiggles" where you stretch your hips side to side from this same position. It's kind of like the cat cow but sideways instead of up and down.

Bird Dog

From the cat cow position you can go straight into bird dogs. Repeat alternating one side to the other and keep your core engaged during this exercise. I'll do about 10-20 reps of these.


Bird Dog Progressions (Drawing Squares)

Then i'll jump into bird dog progressions which I like to call "Drawing Squares". Don't let this one fool you, it's harder than it looks. That or maybe i'm just not very coordinated. Again, i'll try and do about 10 - 20 circles each side.

Child's Pose With Side Stretches

From your hands and knees I then drop into a child's pose and hold this stretch for about 10-20 seconds just letting my back and shoulders relax. Once you feel comfortable, keep your knees in place and stretch your arms to the sides. This allows you to isolate both the left and right sides.

Lower Body Russian Twist

Finally I flip over onto my back and perform 10 - 20 lower body twists. Again focus on keeping your core engaged and don't go too fast on these.

I know, simple right? These stretches may not look all that effective, but I swear by them in order to get my day going.

Until next time... Here's to keeping you active and ruling at life!

Brandon Fields

Founder @ Old Bones Therapy