Any athlete will tell you there is nothing that feels better on sore muscles than a big old ice pack. In fact, sometimes people will even use frozen vegetables like peas or carrots to have a less watery form of relief. However the ice might come, the cold temperatures help us find relief from sore muscles and sooth aching joints.

This invites the question: when do you use cold over heat? Last week we talked about using heat and this week we are talking about cold therapy instead. Applying cold is best used when you want to reduce swelling and inflammation on acute pain. It can also reduce muscle spasms and help you recover more quickly from an injury.

In order for cold therapy to be effective we must follow some simple rules. First, make sure to keep the ice on for at least 20 minutes at a time. This can get uncomfortable but it is vital if we want the cold therapy to be effective.  With such long exposure it is important to include some fabric in-between the skin and the ice. At the very least, avoid having direct contact between the ice pack and your skin Also don’t let yourself use the ice for too long due to frostbite or “prolonged application to the fingers, toes, ears and nose. These areas are tender and can be injured easily from the cold

The reason ice packs are helpful is the cold temperature ‘helps to constrict blood vessels which then numbs pain’. This is why you often see athletes like football players bathing in ice water. It’s to allow the blood vessels time to relax and begin to heal themselves after the battery of the workout. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself ‘what kind of pain am I having?” and if it is an injury than go with ice. If it is more of a permanent pain go with heat.

According to Dr Anne Rex “…ice wins for acute pain inflammation and swelling. Heat perpetuates the cycle of inflammation and can be harmful.” You can also use an ice pack to help bring down a high fever or other ailments.

In addition to ice packs the many products in the Zim’s line of pain relief solutions. One of our favorites is the Max-Freeze liquid. It provides maximum cooling with a deep penetrating formula. It’s unique long-neck applicator is perfect for ”hard to reach” areas like the back, neck and shoulders. As the special formula works on the injured or sore muscles you will be able to relax, recover and get back to fulfilling your exercise goals.

When do you use ice packs? Are you a frozen vegetable person? Please share with us in the comments section.