One of the most common questions we get is “when should I use ice or when should I use heat?” It can be confusing when trying to decide which is best to use in various scenarios.

Ice: We recommend the use of ice for acute/new injuries, usually sprains or strains of muscle or tissue. Ice helps to reduce inflammation and can also ease pain.

General symptoms that call for ice:

  • swelling
  • injury is warm or red
  • inflammation
  • pain

How to use:

  • You can apply ice for 10-20 minutes.
  • You can repeat this process every couple of hours.

CAUTION: Make sure your ice pack is covered with something like a pillow case. Putting ice directly against the skin can cause tissue damage, sometimes as bad as frostbite.

Heat: The use of heat can be helpful in easing symptoms of pain from muscle spasms, knots, or trigger points. These injuries are usually chronic in nature. A stiff neck or a sore low back can be relieved by heat since the warmth relaxes the over-active muscles. It helps to increase circulation and reduce the muscle spasms.

General symptoms that will benefit from heat:

  • Stiffness
  • soreness that is generally chronic in nature
  • knots, trigger points

How to use:

  • You can apply heat for up to 30 minutes or as tolerated as a comfortable, relaxing experience.
  • You can repeat this process every couple of hours if necessary.

CAUTION: Be careful when using heat. The purpose is to warm the tissue. Heat is not recommended for people with peripheral vascular disease or diabetes. Using too much heat can damage tissue.

In summary, think ice for acute injuries that may be swollen, painful and hot. Heat can be used for chronic injuries or minor muscular soreness. If in doubt, feel free to come visit us or give us a call.

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