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Hot or Cold, which is better for healing?


Rest Ice Compression Elevation

This has been first aid advice for years now, but is it right?

In the last couple of years the research has shown us that no, it isn't. Which is inline with the Traditional Chinese Medicine / Ayurvedic practitioners have always said heat over cold.

So what should we think?

The key, as ever is in the context, I made a short instagram video on the topic here below, which I'll expand on below that:

Ice, or cyro therapy is useful as it immediately reduces pain and inflammation.

And on the whole, we don't like inflammation.

Actually that is not quite true, we love inflammation, when it's appropriate and not excessive. inflammation brings healing, it is the fluids rushing to the injury site bringing with it nutrition, warmth, blood, plasma, lymph and and the good stuff that will help things fix themselves up in quick time.

In order to encourage blood flow and speed up the inflammatory process, we can add heat. Heat will open the vasculature allowing for a greater amount of fluid going into and out of the area. Bringing nutrition and raw materials in and transporting the junk out.

My tool of choice for this?

The good old fashioned hot water bottle.

Second to that you can get the microwavable bags, chemical packs and after that we're into creams and rubs such as Tiger Balm, Deep Heat and the like.

On the creams, it is thought that a large amount of their success comes from the rubbing as you apply them. I'm not sure whether that's right or wrong, but I've used enough Tiger Balm over the years to tell you the heat and the rubbing together make for a happy Dave!

So what about cold?

Do we kick it to the kerb entirely?

Not so fast. If you are an athlete training multiple times per day or competing across a day, as in a BJJ or Judo competition, then ice could be just the thing.

We said Ice has a near instant analgesic effect, it takes the pain away very quickly while preventing, even reducing inflammation.

So lets say your knee is hurting, but you have to go out again in an hour, or later that day to compete in the next round, we don't want our range of motion inhibited by inflammation, we merely want the pain reduced enough to allow us go out and do our thing. Ice is just this.

If we're doing tough strength and conditioning training and have a skills practice later today, or the next day, cold can help us moderate the inflammatory response and we may be better able to practice tomorrow.

The cold has it's place. In my mind it's short term and acute to get us through this here, this now.

Once home though, we want to encourage blood flow through the region, and heat is a better option. Heat and movement if appropriate. If you have questions or comments on anything in this post, please get in touch. Comment below or drop me message.

And if you feel this information would help someone else, please do hit the share buttons and spread the word.


Dave Hedges

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