Heat v’s Ice – When to use as treatment

heat v's ice
Ice and heat are easy, natural and affordable ways to relieve pain. But which one is the best to use?

The decision whether to ice or apply heat is dependent on what is occurring.

  • Ice therapy is known as cryotherapy - it can help reduce pain which occurs with inflammation. Inflammation is a combination of processes which attempt to minimise injury to tissues and promote healing.

  • Thermotherapy (heat) is where heat is applied which causes an increase of blood flow. Heat therapy can work to reduce muscular tension, trigger point activity and promote circulation to a troublesome area.

Arthritis

worn or damaged cartilage in joints (knee, shoulder, elbow, fingers etc)

Solution

Moist heat eases chronically stiff joints, relaxes tight muscles

Strains

Pulled muscles or injured tendons in the thigh, back, calf etc

Solution

Ice eases inflammation (redness, swelling and/or tenderness) and numbs pain

Heat eases stiffness after inflammation resolves

Headache

Pain from nerves or blood vessels in the head or from muscles in the neck

Solution

Ice numbs throbbing head pain

Moist heat relaxes painful neck and muscle spasms

Sprains

Stretching or tearing of ligaments in joints like the knee, ankle, foot, elbow etc

Solution

Ice eases inflammation and numbs pain

Heat eases stiffness after inflammation resolves

Tendinitis

Acute irritation after activity in tendons attached to joints like the shoulder, elbow, knee, wrist, heel etc

Solution

Ice eases inflammation and numbs pain

When to ice
  • When injury/ trauma has occurred - use up to 48 hours after the event
  • When there is inflammation, which is represented by redness, swelling and/or pain
  • Post work out - ice massage
When to heat
  • Use heat when experiencing back pain, in particular lower back
  • Where muscular tension is felt
  • If you experience stiff joints, chronic muscle and joint pain
  • Prior to exercise/stretching