September 12, 2008

A recent fall while hiking had me search for the answer to this question. Here’s the answer: both, in time!

Cold decreases blood flow, lessens inflammation, and blocks pain by numbing. Heat increases blood flow, increases elasticity of tissue, decreases stiffness, relaxes muscles and promotes healing.

When injuries are new, and there is swelling present, immediate use of ice is the best choice. Ice is effective in reducing bruising, reducing pain and swelling and should be used for the first 48-72 hours or until the swelling has gone away.

What about heat? Heat can reduce muscle spasms, improve joint stiffness and make soft tissue more limber. Moist heat is more effective than dry heat, as it penetrates deeper for muscles, joints and soft tissue. Hot tubs are ideal for this second stage of healing. The constant temperature and jets act to promote the quickest healing.

Take a tip from Willie McGinest-the NFL’s most senior linebacker. After 15 years in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns, McGinest has become a master at surviving training camp. Early in his career, he says, he reached a peak in his training during the off season and would arrive at camp worn out. He’s learned to pace himself through training.

“The biggest reason he’s lasted 15 years is he’s a tremendous athlete,” says Brown’s Coach Romeo Crennel in an interview in USA Today. Crennel also coached McGinest as the New England defensive coordinator. “But he has seen a little bit of everything. He understands what it takes to play this game, how to prepare, how to manage himself. And he knows his body.”

McGinest’s other keys for surviving camp:

•Recovery: “I’ll get deep tissue massages, soak in the ice tub and the hot tub. And stretch.”

If it works for a top athlete, it’ll work for you! Don’t forget the massages.

SANUM PER AQUA. Latin for health through water.