To Heat or to Ice? How to Treat Your Child’s Sports Injury


Unfortunately, injuries are often a part of sports. Perhaps you took them to a Louisville City FC game and inspired their love for soccer. Their first few practices and games went fine, but they pulled a muscle or sprained their wrist after a particularly rough fall. Now you need to know – when should you apply heat to an injury?

Sports injuries are very common for kids. In fact, one-third of their childhood injuries can come from sports. Additionally, sprains and strains are the most common issues they can have. Learn here whether to use heat or ice for muscle strains and which one to use for sprains.

What Does Heat Do for an Injury?

While warmth can be very comforting, it also has specific medical uses. It can increase blood flow when muscles feel like they’re burning, which is caused by a buildup of lactic acid. This acid isn’t a bad thing – it can just cause soreness in the muscles. When your blood vessels get tight after strenuous activity, the lactic acid has nowhere to go and causes your tissue to feel tired.

Introducing heat to the equation can help your child’s blood vessels loosen up and get rid of the acid buildup. Doing so can ease muscle pain and bring essential nutrients to start the healing process. Additionally, some extra warmth can loosen up your kid’s joints. If they find it hard to move after practice, try out a heating pad or warm bath and see how they feel.

Heat could also help ease their pain through their nerves. When they’re experiencing something that hurts, their nerves carry that message to their brain full-time. You can relieve these pain nerves by introducing some gentle heat. The new sensation turns on different nerves and can allow the brain to focus on the non-painful information.

When Should You Apply Heat to an Injury?

Ice certainly has its beneficial uses, but heat is best in the event of muscle strain. Applying it can loosen up taut muscles and relieve the acid buildup that could be part of the problem. If your child strains or tears part of their muscle, the heat can encourage blood flow to these areas, bringing vital healing cells to repair their injury.

Heat is not the best option for sprains. The increase in blood flow can cause a bit of swelling, which you don’t want for this kind of injury. Additionally, if your child is too hot, adding more warmth to their body can cause them to overheat. Avoid using heat in these situations.

What does heat do for an injury? It helps untighten muscles, loosens up blood vessels, and brings pain relief. If you’re wondering whether to use heat or ice for muscle strain, heat is the best option, along with knowing how to stop injuries before they happen.

What Ice Can Do for Sports Injuries?

On the other end of the temperature scale, ice also has medicinal applications. Perhaps most notably, it can reduce swelling and inflammation. The cold causes your muscles to tighten due to the restricted blood flow, reducing their ability to swell. While inflammation is a natural part of healing, too much can cause your kid unnecessary pain.

Ice can also help numb pain. If your child was recently injured or is often sore right after practice, using the cold may cut down the pain they’re experiencing. In the same way that restricted blood flow can prevent excessive swelling, this process also numbs the pain. When you need fast-acting relief, ice could be your solution.

In terms of sports injuries, ice can be an excellent pain solution. It’s great for recent injuries when you may need to wait to get your kid to a doctor. Doing so can reduce their hurting by narrowing their blood vessels and helping lower the swelling. If they have a sports injury that could cause inflammation, ice could solve a bit of the problem.

When to Use Ice on an Injury

In the case of a sprain, ice is your best bet for pain relief. Swelling is one of the sure signs of sprains, so getting ice on there quickly can stop this. Additionally, it can diminish how much of the injury your child feels. By reducing blood flow in the area where your child got hurt, they may feel a bit better while you get them to an urgent care facility.

When muscle strain is their problem, ice won’t help. Remember – what heat does for an injury is loosen the tissue, while ice constricts it. You shouldn’t apply heat to an injury when the issue is muscle tightness.

Ice can help numb the pain of a strain and reduce how much the area swells. If you suspect your child has this injury, use cold instead of heat. Restricting the blood flow where they’re hurt can have many advantages before they receive treatment.

Heat or Ice for Muscle Strain? Which Is Best for Sprains?

Both hot and cold can help your child when they’ve received a sports injury. What does heat do for an injury? It can loosen muscles and assist in healing – perfect for muscle strain. Ice is great for sprains because it can relieve pain and lessen swelling.

While you need to keep an eye on your kid when applying either – heat can cause burns and ice can cause frostbite – they’re excellent ways to treat your child’s sports injury.

Beth is the Managing Editor at Body+Mind. She is passionate about writing about parenting, nutrition, mental health and fitness. In her spare time, Beth enjoys going for runs with her dog and trying out new recipes.


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