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Ice or heat? Or both?

Updated: Apr 12, 2023

One of the most common remedial decisions following an injury or when in pain is the use of a cold compress or heat.

These can be in a number of forms including-

  • ice packs

  • frozen peas

  • cold sprays

  • hot water bottle

  • heat pack

  • hot bath or shower

Whether to use ice or heat for pain depends on the type and cause of the pain. In general, ice is recommended for acute injuries or inflammation, while heat is better for chronic pain or stiffness.

Ice can help to reduce swelling and inflammation by constricting blood vessels and slowing down the inflammatory response. It is particularly effective for acute injuries such as sprains, strains, or bruises, as well as for post-operative pain. Applying ice for 10-20 minutes at a time, several times a day, can help to reduce pain and promote healing.

Heat, on the other hand, can help to increase blood flow and relax muscles, making it beneficial for chronic pain or stiffness. It can also help to reduce muscle spasms and improve flexibility. Heat therapy can be applied in the form of warm compresses, hot water bottles, or heating pads for 15-20 minutes at a time, several times a day.

It's important to note that there are some situations where applying heat or ice can make the pain worse or be contraindicated. If you are unsure which therapy to use or have any concerns, it's always best to consult with a healthcare professional.

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