We’ve all been there.  We slept “funny” and woke up with a stiff neck.  We overdid it with yard work or shoveling snow and now our back is sore.  We just returned from spring break that meant a long car ride or flight and now our neck and back are aggravated with pain and stiffness.

At Meridian Chiropractic Clinic, we get the same question over and over again.  Should I use heat or ice?

There doesn’t seem to be a consistent answer.  Go to a 24-hour medical facility and they will tell you heat is best.  The emergency ward of a hospital will advise alternating heat and ice.  And drugstores are filled with heat packs, liniments, ice bags and even creams that start out hot and then end up cold.  How are you suppose to know which would be most effective for you particular pain?

There is a definite difference between the application of  heat or ice and the circumstances which surround both.  Dr. Jeff Yoder DC will most often recommmend the application of ice along with your chiropractic treatment.  The conditions that require ice involve extreme pain or swelling.  Most often we use ice in the clinic to calm an irritated nerve or decrease inflammation.  Ice is incorportated many times if your pain is new or fresh or what we call in the “acute” stage or a re-aggravation of an old injury that has flared up.

Ice can bring relief by constricting blood vessels in the painful area and thereby decreasing the swelling and pressure and consequently the pain.  Ice can also decrease the possibility of internal bleeding occurring in the muscles and ligaments which appears as a bruise.

Ice also stabilizes the injured tissue and allows the chiropractic treatment to bring about a quicker response and relief to the nerve pressure and, consequently, your pain.

Applying ice can be in the form of ice cubes in a baggie or frozen vegetables…no need to buy fancy drugstore icepacks.  Just be sure to never apply ice directly to the skin as frostbite can be a real threat.

So, when should you supply heat?  Heat is used primarily for maintenance of an existing or ongoing problem or that has been addressed already with several chiropractic treatments.  Applying heat to a new irritation probably feels better and more soothing but actually has the ability to make the problem worse.

So, in conclusion, if you are ever in a situation where you are trying to decide whether heat or ice will better help you….use the ice until you can call us at Meridian Chiropractic and make an appointment.