A very common question I get from patients is “what can I do at home for my pain until I come back for my next treatment?” Most often the recommendation is to use some variation of ice, heat, or both.
Another question is, “I’ve been using ICYHOT. Should I continue using it?” The answer to that is not as easy. To understand the usefulness of ICYHOT, one term needs to be understood, “therapeutic benefit”. Simply put, if something has therapeutic benefit then it helps your body heal from whatever is ailing you.
Ice and heat both have various ways it yields therapeutic benefit. ICYHOT does not have any therapeutic benefit.
“But when I use ICYHOT it helps reduce my pain”.
Yes it does, ICYHOT is a pain reliever, just like Tylenol is a pain reliever. Neither helps your body heal, but they do block pain signals. Pain is a great device your body uses to tell you there is something wrong and it needs attention. ICYHOT contains Capsaicin and menthol, which both work to give the brain the sensation of hot and cold. This also blocks the sensation of pain.
Imagine that pain is the “check engine” light on the dashboard on your car, ICYHOT is the piece of tape you place over that light to ignore the warning. Ignoring the warning signal the body sends us is not a good idea. You would not want to do this with your car and it can be a much worse idea to do the same for your body.
So the question is, “…Then what should I do?”
Using actual hot or cold therapy not only helps to reduce pain, but can help cause the pain. Depending on the cause of your pain, cold/hot therapy can also help to reduce inflammation, increase cell metabolism, reduce muscle spasms, improve blood flow, and other benefits. None of those benefits can be gained by using ICYHOT alone.
“How do I know when to use ice or heat?”
That is a very important question. In some cases, the use of one of the two can make a condition worse. There is one easy rule to use, if the condition is new use ice and if it is old use heat. An easy example is a sprained ankle. This is a new trauma so you should use ice. One study shows that icing an ankle sprain within minutes of the injury can cut weeks off the healing time.
But just like anything, there are exceptions to the rule. This is why before any self-treatment of any health condition it is best to consult with your physician first. Your family chiropractor is an expert on musculoskeletal conditions and will help you find the best way to not only help reduce pain, but to help you heal.