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When To Use Ice and When To Use Heat

0 Janet Horvath
health Editor's Abstract

In her 2nd “Playing Less Injured” tip, Janet Horvath explains how to treat your tired and overworked muscles – sometimes icing is the right way to go, but other times heat is better.

Ann Drinan

When you feel you have overplayed, when you have some pain, or for those hot, tired muscles after a heavy performance even when injury is absent, drop everything and ice the area. Icing accelerates recovery and promotes healing. Ice minimizes swelling, and therefore allows blood flow to continue unrestricted. It’s also a good pain killer. Because your pain is minimized, icing allows you to keep moving, which can prevent scar tissue from forming. Keep ice packs handy and apply them to the sore area over a thin towel 40 to 60 seconds several times a day –just long enough to make the area numb. Combine this with gentle massaging by “painting” the ice over the painful areas when an injury first occurs.

Ice is not advised for anyone with circulatory problems. Avoid ice if you have RSD, Raynaud’s rheumatoid arthritis, or diabetes.

Make sure that you stop playing and avoid other hand-intensive activity after icing. Do not stretch and do not play right after icing. You can injure yourself further, as your muscles are less flexible after icing.

Use heat to relieve pain when an injury is chronic or long term. Here is a rule of thumb:

  • Cold reduces pain; heat assists in stretching
  • Use heat before playing, and ice after playing

Heat can relax and soothe sore muscles. It can help you prepare to warm up prior to practicing or performing by gently warming up your hands if they are cold, and by assisting with a range of motion stretches. Heat should not be used when inflammation is present, or when the injury is acute.

From Janet Horvath’s
Playing (less) Hurt – An Injury Prevention Guide for Musicians www.playinglesshurt.com

© 2006, Janet Horvath

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