Simple Solutions for Summer Do-it-Yourselfers: When to Use Heat or Ice

My contractor said he thought it would be a good project I could do myself…he called it “a fun weekend project.” He just didn’t specify how many weekends. Six, it turned out.

I do love my flagstone porch and it cost much less to do it myself. It also turned out to be an unfortunate study in when to use heat or ice for pain relief. I’ll save you the time and share the six weeks worth of learning:

Week 1: Drive to rock shop and select individual flagstones so they are “just right”. Lift 40 into trunk of car, unload into driveway. Problem: Lower back is telling me I really should not have done this. Pain that night, stiffness the next day. Solution: Ice pack for the first 24-48 hours on back, then heat.…hot bath with Epsom salts, microwave heating pad on stiff, aching muscles, and yes, I stooped so low as to use the seat heaters in my car during my commute on Monday morning… 

Week 2: Fire up new tools to see just how hard it will be to learn to cut stone. Score stone with grinder, tap chisel with hammer to break along the score line. Slam thumb with large hammer on first attempt. Problem: Throbbing pain and redness, with associated swear words. Solution: Flaxseed ice pack from freezer…just, ice pack. Now. 

Week 3: Get this stone cutting thing down: score, chisel, arrange, repeat. Repeat too many times that Saturday. Problem: Hand and wrist are so sore that night I try to fix dinner using only my left hand, as my right has mild swelling and pain with use. Solution: Ice pack from the freezer to reduce inflammation. 

Week 4: Line flagstone up with edges of steps to mark stones and cut to size. Problem: Did not notice angry bee just off porch. Solution: Apply flaxseed cold pack from freezer to bee sting. Take rest of day off to evaluate difference between bees and wasps and nesting habits. 

Week 5: Learn to mix mortar to correct consistency, lift stones to mortar beneath and place. Pinch hand between two stones I am tapping into alignment with rubber mallet. Problem: bruising…Solution: flaxseed ice pack.

Week 6: It’s done. Allow the mortar to cure, clean the surface, place bench and planter on the new beautiful front porch. Problem: tired, but a good tired. Solution: Apply cold drink with ice from freezer. Lift repeatedly… 

The experts have lots to say about the value of hot and cold therapy, and when to use heat or ice for aches, pains and injuries. The most basic guideline is if it is an injury or something sudden, use ice to slow circulation in the area to reduce inflammation and swelling. For muscle and joint aches that have been around for a while, use heat to increase circulation to the area to promote healing, and loosen muscle spasms and trigger points. I love this chart from the Cleveland Clinic.  

WebMD and University of Rochester Medical Center also have great guidelines as to when to use heat or ice.

Many of our products here at the Hot and Cold Co will work either hot or cold. Just microwave for a minute or two for heat to ease stiffness and soreness, or store one in the freezer and apply to injuries to reduce inflammation and pain. Our wraps are high quality fabrics, and provide a buffer between your skin and the ice or heat you are using, so no extra layer like a towel is needed to protect your skin from direct contact with ice, as you might need with a plastic bag of ice or frozen peas.

If you do a lot of home projects, you might just want our A Little Love Comfort Pack in the freezer all the time…to quickly help ease the pain in more ways than one!

Of course, if that thumb got REALLY smashed, or any pain is ongoing or severe, do check with your doctor first. They are the only ones who can tell you for sure the best approach to ease your particular ache or pain. All we can share with you here are the basic guidelines generally given for each.

Looking forward to more iced drinks on my flagstone porch – 

Live Well!

- Diana

1 comment

  • Tino P.

    Love the stories and helpful info!

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