May 7, 2019 – Heat vs. Cold for Pain



One of the most common questions we receive in our office for injuries: ‘Do I use heat or ice?’. We treat everything from arthritis to muscle muscles with ice and heat, but what do they actually do? 

As a general rule of thumb you use heat therapy for muscle pain and stiffness, and you use ice therapy for acute injuries and pain. However, it is sometimes more complicated which you type of therapy you use.

Heat Therapy works by improving the blood flow and circulation to an area and increasing its temperature. Increasing temperature has the effect of increasing muscle flexibility and relaxing tight muscles. We usually recommend 10-15 minutes for heat therapy to be applied. In cases where the client has diabetes, skin conditions or vascular conditions we do not recommend heat therapy.

Cryotherapy or ‘Cold Therapy’ works by decreasing blood flow to an area which can act to reduce inflammation and swelling which causes pain. We recommend applying no more than 15 minutes at a time for cryotherapy, as longer can sometimes cause skin irritation. We cannot emphasize enough, although cold therapy can help with pain for acute injuries, in many cases simply getting the area moving is the most effective way of recovering from an injury.

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