ICE VERSUS HEAT
A Guide for Ice and Heat Application
When to use Ice:
- Ice is a common remedy used to manage pain and swelling. It can be applied directly to
the affected area or through a cold compress. Ice should typically be applied as soon as
possible after an injury occurs, as ice helps reduce inflammation and limit tissue damage
that could result from the initial trauma. For example, if you sprain your ankle playing
sports, ice should be applied as soon as possible to reduce swelling and pain. Ice should
be used for 15-20 minutes at a time, up to three times per day.
- However, ice is not always the best solution for managing pain and swelling. In some
cases, ice can cause more damage than good if applied for too long, especially on
sensitive areas like the skin. It is important to be aware of ice-induced tissue damage
(frostbite) and use ice cautiously. Additionally, ice may not be recommended for some
chronic conditions such as arthritis or other musculoskeletal issues due to potential
adverse effects. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about whether ice is
appropriate for your condition.
- This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for
medical advice from a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. If you have any
questions or concerns, please speak to your healthcare provider.
When to use Heat:
- Heat helps improve chronic inflammation. It promotes relaxation of muscles by
increasing blood flow to the area to reduce inflammation and relax tense muscles.
Heat therapy can also be used to improve circulation, reduce stress, decrease
tension headaches, and improve overall relaxation. Heat can be applied in the form
of heat packs or hot water bottles, heat wraps or warm baths.
- Heat should not be used on new orthopedic injuries (Do not use if less than 1 week
out from injury). Heat can increase swelling and pain and delay the healing process
if done too early. Cold therapy is often recommended when treating new injuries as
it reduces inflammation and helps to restrict blood vessels in the area, which helps
reduce swelling. For chronic muscular pain or discomfort heat may be beneficial but
always seek medical advice first.
Application/Duration of heat:
- Applying heat, for example with a heat pack, needs to be done with caution. Before
treatment begins make sure the heat is not too hot, as heat that is too extreme can
cause burns on the skin. Heat packs should not be left in place for longer than 15
minutes at a time and cooled before applying again. In addition, you should monitor
heat levels on the skin to ensure heat is not causing burning or discomfort.
- Heat should always be used with caution and only after consulting a
health professional for guidance in heat application technique. Heat can be an
effective way to reduce muscle pain, stiffness, swelling, and promote relaxation
when used correctly. Use heat safely!
- This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute
for medical advice from a doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. If you
have any questions or concerns, please speak to your healthcare provider.