Ice vs Heat for Treating Hamstring Strains, Spasms & Tears
When dealing with a strained hamstring it's hard to know what treatment will work best for you. You might be wondering if ice and heat will work for you. Or maybe even which will work better - ice OR heat.
Icing and heating are 2 of the most natural treatment options available. Compared to medications, surgery and other treatment methods - icing and heating have been around for centuries and have always been used for hamstring injury healing as a means to soothe and heal.
We understand that it can get pretty confusing to figure out what conservative treatment method will work best with all of the treatment options available to you today. To get started, you should think about the benefits you'll get from using these therapies.
What's Better to Treat Your Hamstring: Ice or Heat?
Ice and heat are the best treatment combination for you if:
- You're looking to heal your hamstring muscle quickly and want to boost the natural power of pain relief and healing in your body. Perhaps you want to get rid of leg pain or bone spur pain and inflammation.
- You don't want to repeatedly pay the cost (both from your wallet and time needed for long-term healing) of injections, medications, hospital visits. Perhaps you want to try and avoid surgery - if at all possible.
- You want to prevent any future injury, pain, strain, pull or spasm in your hamstring muscle.
- You want to reduce the risk of your hamstring injury from worsening.
- You want to prevent any future re-injury, pain, tear or swelling in your leg.
- You want to control your own treatment and healing at home, on your own time.
- You're looking for a tried, tested, and true method of healing that's been used for centuries and has worked for countless other hamstring pain sufferers.
Combining cold and warmth is a simple yet effective way to get immediate pain relief and promote long-term healing. In your lifetime you've probably had your mom, family doctor, nurse, surgeon or physical therapist (PT) tell you to use ice right after you're injured and something warm from time to time once the swelling's gone down. It's a simple yet very effective way to relieve pain and promote healing in your hamstring.
Hamstring injuries can happen to anyone, right now there are thousands of doctors and PTs dealing with patients that require a solution to treat their hamstring injury fast and heal it (where possible).
If you want to be proactive about properly dealing with your hamstring injury, speak to your doctor about adding conservative temperature treatments to your recovery with AidYourHamstring's system using a Cold Compress or Ice Pack, MendMeShop Arnica Pain Cream, and Circulatory Boost via a Leg T•Shellz Wrap®.
Note: If you have an Acute (recent, inflamed) Soft Tissue Injury, Do Not Use Heat.
Your doctor knows that the sooner cold is applied, the quicker you can reduce inflammation and achieve real pain relief. This will help reduce the chance of a much longer lasting chronic injury. Heat and inflammation are a bad mix and should not be used together. Heat is good at the spa - it will help your body relax, but when it comes to a swollen injury it is not a good idea.
When To Use Cold:
A Cold Compress or Ice Pack work best to relieve pain, swelling and inflammation for new injuries, re-injury and during immediate post surgery recovery. Cold should also be used during the first 24 - 72 hours of treatment, combined with resting your injury.
- 24 to 72 hours after your initial injury or when you first notice pain and swelling to stop tissue damage, relieve pain, and decrease swelling.
- After exercise, workouts or activity of any kind to prevent re-injury.
- Before and after surgery during rehabilitation to control pre and post-surgery pain and swelling.
- Anytime you feel your hamstring or other area of the leg has been over-extended, over-worked, twisted, strained or sprained causing pain and swelling.
- Anytime you have swelling, sharp throbbing pain or inflammation.
- Any other situation where you need to draw the pain and inflammation out of your hamstring and surrounding tissue.
When to use a Leg TShellz Wrap (HEAT):
- When the swelling is gone (usually after applying cold compression to the injury over 24 to 48 hr period).
- BEFORE getting out of bed in the morning. BEFORE going to bed at night.
- BEFORE exercise, workouts or activity of any kind to increase elasticity of the ligaments & tendons and decrease chance of re-injury.
- AFTER surgery (once the skin wound has healed over) to increase post-surgery healing rate and minimize scar tissue growth at the surgery location.
- Anytime BEFORE you feel you might undertake activity that will put significant strain on the injury area.
- Any other situation where you need to increase blood flow to your injury to relax your hamstring, relieve trigger point pain / spasms, prevent re-injury and enhance flexibility of soft tissue.
Here Are A Couple Of Examples For When To Use Cold (Ice) Or Heat:
You Have Mild Pain In Your Hamstring That Has Been Around for Months & Is Not Going Away
You're having a pain free day so far and decide to walk the dog on a longer route. You realize afterwards that was a bad idea because your hamstring is throbbing and the pain is continuing on throughout the rest of the day.
Use COLD on your hamstring to stop further damage to the micro-tearing in your hamstring muscles and help ease the pain.
A couple days later, after the pain has abated somewhat, start regular treatments with the Leg T•Shellz Wrap® to deal with the persistent condition and try not to do any movements that would put strain on the hamstring. Over a couple weeks, the chronic condition should improve due to the heat effect and the secondary effect of increased blood flow.
You've Suffered From Cramping In Your Hamstring Before. Now You're Trying To Bring Your Vaccum Cleaner Up A Set Of Stairs In Your House To Clean Your Bedroom.
You forgot about your injury but realize it's there when you try carry, push or pull the vacuum up the stairs with you... Flexing and putting weight on your hamstring just reminded you of the cramping you've felt, and you now feel your hamstring muscle spasming.
The pain was temporary and if there is no inflammation, NO cold compression is needed. In this case heat (Circulation Boost) should be used to relieve the cramp or spasm in your hamstring and encourage healing of your damaged tissue.
Use cold after any sort of activity causes you on-going pain.
When Should You Use Heat (via a Leg T•Shellz Wrap® To Treat Your Hamstring?
Circulatory Boost treatments work best to increase blood flow circulation and relieve pain for older (chronic) injuries, re-injuries (after swelling has been reduced) and during long-term post surgery recovery.
Circulatory Boost should not be used directly after an injury, as you must wait for swelling to drop.
Circulatory Boost treatments should not be started for a least 6 weeks after surgery because inflammation levels will be very high as the healing process starts over again. Any use of Circulatory Boost should also be combined with gradual movement to stretch out your leg and increase range of motion.
If you have a chronic hamstring (or quadriceps) injury that keeps getting re-injured you should use a Leg TShellz Wrap before activity to loosen up your tissue (making it more flexible). This treatment is shown to increase the elasticity (flexibility) of the soft tissue in and around the treatment area; further to this, heat will also lengthen soft tissue. The benefits of increased length and flexibility of soft tissue mean it will be more pliable for activity and less likely to re-injure (important).
Sometimes we feel pain while doing a certain activity - should you still use a
T•Shellz Wrap®? Using a
TShellz Wrap in the morning before you start your day or before activity can help to boost blood-flow and reduce risk of further strain or injury. Use cold part-way through your day after you have been active so you can decrease pain and inflammation from the flare up.
Using a Leg/Arm T•Shellz Wrap® is a good long-term plan because it will help stimulate blood flow (vasodilation) and can also be used on a preventive basis to relax constricted soft tissue. The use of a T•Shellz Wrap® indirectly enhances the local blood circulatory system, increasing the supply of oxygen and nutrients - the energy your tissue needs to heal.
What Makes the Leg TShellz Wrap Different?
With regular use of the Leg TShellz Wrap:
- Your pain will be reduced.
- In most cases, your body's healing process will be accelerated (due to enhanced blood circulation) with reduced potential for re-injury*.
- Soft tissue in the treatment area will have a enhanced range of motion and increased extensibility of collagen tissue. (Chapter 9 of "Therapeutic Heat and Cold", 4th edition.
(amazon.com link - Ed. Justus F. Lehmann, M.D., Williams, and Wilkin)
Our high quality wraps are registered with the FDA as medical devices which meet high manufacturing standards.
How to Use Ice and Heat to Relieve & Treat Your Hamstring
The main symptoms of a hamstring injury are:
- sharp pain or twinges along the length of the hamstring or at a specific point on the back of the thigh
- tenderness or muscle spasm in the hamstring muscle
- difficulty in straightening your leg
- limping when walking
- weakness and/or inability to run
When it comes to using ice and heat for treating hamstring injuries, it's important to keep in mind that both ice AND heat are very effective ways to relieve pain and heal. Most people will think one is better over the other from their own experience or what a doctor / PT has previously told them.
The only difference between using ice and heat is that 1 is better for you at a specific time in your healing cycle. Ice is used first, right when you get your injury, to decrease pain / swelling and inflammation. Once swelling has reduced, we then focus on heat based treatments to increase blood flow circulation in the area to stimulate the body's healing response.
Each temperature treatment has its own unique benefits for hamstring healing, and when used together they provide a powerful advantage to long-term healing. You may already know that ice or heat feels better on your leg, and this could influence your decision too.
The bottom line is that ice and heat are exceptional, natural pain relievers and healers for your tendon injury. There are cases where some hamstring injuries will respond better to 1 temperature over the other. We want to help clear up the confusion so you know which is better (icy cold or gentle heat) and how to get the most from your treatment at home.
Part 1: Cold
Ice / Cold as Pain Relief for Your Hamstring Injury
COLD (ice) is used to treat injuries or conditions that are red, hot, inflamed, swollen and suffering from tissue damage (a tear or recovering from surgery). Cold is a natural / organic pain reliever that numbs pain right at the source of your injury. While doing this the cold also stops tissue break-down and reduces the amount of scar tissue forming (this is very important after surgery).
When cold is applied to a hamstring injury, all of the soft tissue in the treatment area will squeeze on the veins to slow down blood flow. This in turn clamps down on the amount of fluid leaking into your injured tissue, decreasing your swelling. This is why cold is used immediately to treat newer soft tissue injuries or re-injuries. The cold slows down your body to stop the amount of damage happening to your tissue and decrease your swelling. This cold also has a nice side benefit of numbing the nerves in and around your hamstring thereby decreasing your pain.
In the medical world this is something called 'Vasoconstriction'.
Cold can Make Your Hamstring Injury Worse - How?
Applying cold can restrict blood flow and stiffen / tighten soft tissue. Cold is NOT a good treatment method for your hamstring when the tissue is already tight and constricted, because the cold will just stiffen the tissue further. This is especially true if you're suffering from any cramping or spasming in your hamstring muscle. Cold applied on a hamstring muscle cramp or spasm will only make the muscle cramp or spasm even more.
If you feel you have contricted or tight muscles/tendons, use a treatment that will increase blood flow, like the Leg/Arm T•Shellz Wrap®, to relieve tightened and constricted tendons and muscles. Circulatory Boost used at this time will help make your soft tissue elastic and pliable for activity (reaching, athletics, or working).
When To Use a Cold Compress or Ice Pack to Treat Your Hamstring Pain?
Cold compression works best to relieve pain, swelling and inflammation for new injuries, re-injury and during immediate post surgery recovery. Cold should also be used during the first 24 - 72 hours of treatment, combined with resting your injury.
If you've been suffering for some time with a chronic hamstring injury you should only use cold after activity causes you more pain or triggers more inflammatory response symptoms (red, hot, inflamed, swollen). This would be when your hamstring starts to hurt at the end of the day after you've been on your feet, active in athletics, or performing any other tasks that has put a lot of weight or stress on your hamstring. When used at this time cold compression becomes a natural / organic pain reliever, treating the site where you feel the pain.
Sometimes we feel pain while doing a certain activity - should you still use cold? Too much cold can reduce your ability to heal correctly, because cold is a short term pain reliever not a deep tissue healer.
Cold slows nerve and tissue function - reducing swelling that blocks blood vessels from doing their job.
This is important because once blood vessels are blocked or damaged, they can no longer carry oxygenated blood through the tissue and so this tissue begins to break-down. Without cold compression tissue break-down and damage continues as it doesn't get the oxygen it relies on to survive. By limiting the amount of damage done to your hamstring, you also limit the amount of healing that needs to occur. This is a very important step to heal hamstring injuries faster and with less pain!
Part 2: Heat
Heat for Hamstring Injury Recovery
HEAT is used after you've reduced your swelling / inflammation and the sharp pain is less intense (you have more of a dull / nagging ache and soft tissue tightness in your ankle). Warming up your tissue is a natural way to encourage blood flow to soft tissue. Increasing the temperature of soft tissue will result in increased blood flow circulation. It's the blood in your body that will bring oxygen, nutrients and water (basically energy) to your injured hamstring to help with healing.
When heat is applied to the body, veins will expand to allow more blood flow through to your damaged or torn soft tissue. The heat relaxes your hamstring, making the tissue more flexible and elastic. This is why heat is used on older (chronic) injuries, to loosen tissue and bring in the blood flow needed for healing. Your body will begin to heal itself after it is injured. Increasing your blood flow with heat will actually speed up this natural process.
Doctors usually call this process 'Vasodilation'.
Heat can Make Inflammation, Swelling and Newer Injuries Worse - How?
When we injure ourselves, we start healing right away. The body will naturally raise the temperature at the site of the injury resulting in the inflammatory response (redness, heat sensation, inflammation and swelling). This 'fake fever' leaks blood flow to the area to cool it down and start the healing process.
Adding 'heat' to your hamstring when it's already inflamed and tender may make your body think there's a new threat to your tissue and increase the pain in order to get you to stop. For some people applying heat on inflamed / swollen tissue will cause the injury to swell-up even more (as much as 3 times larger than normal). You'll feel even more pain as the pressure builds in your hamstring.
Heat is NOT a good treatment method for inflamed hamstring injuries, new injuries (within the first 24 to 72 hours), right after surgery or right after a re-injury (over-use and/or sharp, throbbing pain). In these cases, heat should be applied later on in the healing cycle. In the meantime, use a Cold Compress or Ice Pack to help decrease any inflammation induced pain.
Here Are A Couple More Examples For When To Use Cold (Ice) Or Heat:
You had a hamstring injury 2 years ago but that injury has healed and you no longer feel pain everyday.
You just went to a new fitness / aerobics class and notice your hamstring feels stiff the day after your first class. There's no pain, inflammation or swelling in your hamstring, just stiffness / soreness where your old injury was.
You should use HEAT (Circulation Boost) on your hamstring before you work out to loosen up your hamstring.
Heat can be used again the next day if you notice any residual stiffness. If the stiffness remains, you should continue to use heat to make sure your old hamstring injury doesn't get worse.
You occasionally feel sharp pain in your hamstring
You're not sure if you have an injury, but the pain seems to come and go only when you're on your feet for an extended period of time or walking, jogging or running. Typically, the pain is a sharp pain, and continues to radiate along the hamstring. Afterwards your hamstring feels weak or unstable.
The pain is probably a signal that you are reinjuring your hamstring, and this means cold is needed initially..
Use a Cold Compress or Ice Pack as a natural pain-reliever and for inflammation reduction. The cold compression will also decrease the amount of damage being done to your leg. If you have not seen a physician, then do so to determine the problem. Once pain and inflammation have reduced significantly, use the Leg T•Shellz Wrap® to continue with your recovery process and help reduce the risk of worsening the re-injury.
Keep using TShellz Wrap treatments before activity and when you notice any stiffness in your hamstring to 'warm up' your tissue and stimulate healing.
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How to Use Consistent Deep Muscle Stretching to Improve Hamstring Strength & Health
For many people, the treatment won't just end there. Stretching is also an important part of hamstring healing - and it's the final step needed when healing your hamstring muscle injury with conservative treatment methods.
You would be suprised by how many people there are that don't understand the importance of stretching a hamstring injury. Before returning to full activity after a hamstring injury, PTs prescribe gentle stretching... This is because stretching is the secret of healing any muscle injury. Consistent stretching is one of few solutions available to help break up scar tissue that forms on your hamstring as it heals.
Read more about hamstring stretching here.
Stretching soft tissue after a recent treatment with the TShellz Wrap is the best way to gain the stretching you need for recovery while minimizing the risk of re-injury. This is due to the effect that heat has on soft tissue - it elongates and increases flexibility of soft tissue which is exactly what you want when you are stretching.
Our Hamstring Formula Works!
It may seem hard to believe, but our T•Shellz Wraps® home treatment devices & accessory products will assist you in recovering from your injury by reducing your swelling and inflammation induced pain and maximizing blood flow where it's needed most.
Here at AidYourHamstring we pride ourselves in helping you with your healing and recovery process. Everyone at AidYourHamstring has tested and used the products, finding solutions to conditions that do not fit into the norm. This dedication to our customers and our products goes hand-in-hand with our guarantees to you as a customer:
- Guarantee #1 - Use your products diligently for up to 60 days and you will experience a significant reduction in pain. If not, I encourage you to send back the items for a 100% refund.
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Learn More About Leg Injuries & Treatments
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