I’ve used cold therapy on a regular basis since starting judo and jiu jitsu to relieve the pain and inflammation in my shoulders, or more specifically bicep tendonitis. I know it’s something you are supposed to do, as it promotes healing, but I did it because it relieved the mild (and sometimes not-so-mild) pain associated with this overuse injury. That in combination with ibuprofen helps me recover from the hard training sessions.
Last Wednesday I tweaked my right shoulder (aggravating it more seriously on Saturday). I haven’t done injured it in this way in a few years. Last time I did was when I was powerlifting seriously, and the injury came from overtraining heavy bench and military press. Anyway, Sharon (BJJ United) suggested that I ice the injury in the first 48 hours and then switch to heat therapy (when the inflammation goes down). I’ve heard this advice many times before, but for some reason decided to actually do it this time. It’s either that Sharon is exceptionally convincing or that I just can’t stay off the mat for more than a day so I’m willing to try anything.
Anyway, I tried applying heat to my shoulder today. The first time I put the heat pack to my shoulder a sharp pain ran through it. It was a strange deep pain, but within about a minute the pain was completely gone and when I removed the pack, my shoulder felt great. So whatever it did (I guess increase blood flow to the area), it certainly alleviated the pain. I did it a few more times throughout the day and right now my shoulder feels great.
I wrote this post not to talk about my shoulder, which I certainly have done way too much in the past two years, but to encourage others with similar injuries to try both ice and heat therapy. The key is to really do it and do it frequently. In order to make that happen, you have to figure out a system that makes applying ice and heat as hassle-free as possible.
For example, here’s the cold/hot pack I use. It’s really easy to use. It has held up for two years of daily use. I also have a shoulder strap thing that is supposed to help connect the pack to my shoulder, but I’ve only used it once. It’s a pain in the ass to use frankly. I just put the cold/hot pack on my shoulder and it stays on.