Physical Therapy: Heat vs. Ice

Living without an injury is unfortunately inevitable. Luckily, there are easy and affordable solutions to ease the pain: ice and heat. But how do we know which one works best for our particular injury? Let’s take a look at what the experts of sports and medicine recommend.

“Ice seems cold, mean, and uncomfortable. Heat seems warm, comfy, and cozy”

Anne Rex Sports and Exercise Medicine Physician

What Do We Use Ice For?

According to the Southern Cali Orthopedic Institute, ice is most commonly used for acute injuries, like sprained ankles, strained backs, and fractured hands. Ice helps reduce swelling, ease pain, muscle spasm and decrease bleeding into the tissues.

Ice

Ankle sprain
Knee sprain
Acute Pain

What Do We Use Heat For?

Heat treatments, should be used for chronic conditions to help relax and loosen tissues and to stimulate blood flow to the area. Applying heat decreases the pain signals to the brain which leads to relieving discomfort, says Medical Director of Spine and Sport Dr. Mooney. Use heat treatments for conditions such as injuries or injuries lasting for more than six weeks.

Heat

Recurring injuries
Stiff joints
Muscle soreness

Remember, you don’t want to suffer from burns or frostbite from excessive use of heat or cold treatment. It is important to remove the heating pad or ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes after each treatment period. It is also important to remember that heat and ice are not a cure for any injury but are a source of comfort. Always remember to check in with your primary care doctor.