ICE or HEAT ?
One of the most common questions injured runners have is whether to use ice or heat to treat their injuries. Here is a guideline:
When to use ice: Immediately after an acute injury like an ankle sprain. After activities that irritate a chronic injury that you already had like shin splints. Ice reduces swelling.
When to use heat: Before activities that irritate chronic injuries (like muscle strains) that have no inflamation or swelling. Heat can help loosen tissues and relax injured areas. You should not apply heat immediately after exercise or to areas that are swollen. Moist heat is best.
How to apply ice: The best way to apply ice is to keep paper cups filled with water in your freezer. Peel the top of the cup away as it melts and massage the ice cup over the injury in a circular pattern. Do not keep the cup on the same spot and never ice longer than 15 minutes due to the risk of frost bite. Allow at least 45 minutes before icing again.
Ice can also be applied in a ziploc bag of ice cubes or crushed ice. Adding a little water to the bag helps it conform to your body.
You can also apply a bag of frozen peas or corn from your freezer. You can put the bag back in your freezer to be reused (or eaten!) when you are done icing.
How to apply heat: You can soak in a hot bath. You can also use heating pads or hot towels or a washcloth soaked in hot water applied to the injured area. Again, moist heat is best-- if using a heating pad, you should use a moist towel between the heating pad and your skin. Do not apply heat for more than 20 minutes. Be sure not to fall asleep with a heating pad on.