When applied correctly, heat and ice offer natural solutions. Follow these simple instructions.

New Injury

Only use either real ice or high-quality gel ice packs (with one or two layers of cloth or paper towel to protect bare skin) for a maximum of 10 minutes and no more frequent than once an hour. Here's what you can expect:

  • First stage: Cold, lasting about one to two minutes.
  • Second stage: Warmer, lasting about five minutes.
  • Third stage: Pain, lasting just a few seconds.
  • Final stage: Numb, the most important stage.

When the area is numb it means that you're controlling the swelling and slowing down the production of pain chemicals, promoting faster healing and fewer adhesions and scar tissue. Keep the ice on for about two minutes after the numb stage is reached - then promptly remove! This usually happens right around eight to 10 minutes. The entire icing session should not exceed 15 minutes - EVER! Otherwise, you can bruise the tissues and it will hurt more the next day.

If the gel ice pack (or frozen peas) is of inferior quality, the tissues will never get to the numb stage and not getting the true benefit of icing.

After the area goes numb, the ice should only be on for another 2 minutes, then it should be removed and the tissues allowed to rest and come back up to body temperature for at least 45 minutes.

Old Injury

To increase blood circulation and improve flexibility from a long-standing problems, use moist heat. A hot water bottle wrapped with a moistened towel can work nicely. Wet the towel then wring the water out of it, wrap it around a water bottle and place it on the area of concern.

To insure that the heat doesn’t aggravate your condition, apply it in increments of ten to twenty minutes, followed by equal periods where the heat is removed and monitor the results.

Avoid the dry heat of a heating pad or applying any heat directly to the spine. Increased blood circulation in the vicinity of delicate spinal nerve roots can sometimes worsen inflammation. We recommend a hot water bottle so in case you fall asleep or lose track of time there is less chance of being accidentally burned.

Naturally, these are general suggestions. We don’t want you to “undo” what we do for you during your office visits, so be sure to consult Dr. Troy Buescher for specific recommendations.