When is the best time to use heat? When is the best time to use ice? Let's first learn how each affect the muscles. Heat/hot packs increase the blood flow to the muscles (vasodilation), to help promote relaxation and improve the muscles function. Ice/cold packs, slow down the blood flow (vasoconstriction) and nerve impulses, which numb the muscles, reduces swelling and inflammation and reduce pain.
At Woburn Physical Therapy, our "Golden Rule" is NEVER STRETCH OR EXERCISE COLD! Meaning, whether you get moist hot packs or warm up dynamically on the Upper Body Bike or Stationary Bike, we would never allow you to just walk in and stretch or hit the weights. Warming up correctly allows the muscles to loosen, get blood flowing to them and maximizes the results you will get from stretching. The better you stretch, the better your work out session will go. The risk of injury significantly goes down when muscles are properly warmed up and stretched.
After a good work out, run, game, Peloton session or Zumba class, always remember to stretch again. That is when you will get the most range out of your muscles, plus it will work out the lactic acid build up. End all exercise sessions by icing down the parts of your body that are the most sore. If you have history of any shoulder, elbow, hip, knee or ankle tendonitis or inflammation, those areas should definitely get iced up after any physical activity. If you find that you are not getting the desired relief from ice or heat, make an appointment with us at Physical Therapy of Woburn. Let us assess and evaluate the injury and place you in a program that will help resolve it and get you back to 100%.
How about on the days that I don't work out or stretch or do anything strenuous?
The staff here at Physical Therapy of Woburn encourage all of our patients to use ice packs every night. Ice packs will help keep inflammation down. Even if your ankle or wrist or low back aren't particularly sore in the evening, using ice will help keep any residual inflammation from increasing.