Hot or Cold? Should I use Heat or Cold? | Breakaway PT
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Hot or Cold? Should I use HEAT or ICE?

Heat or Ice

This is a question we are asked on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis! When you are in pain, one of the first things we are told to do is to apply heat or ice to manage the pain, but which one should you use?

The answer is…it depends!

Both heat and ice can help with pain relief and decreasing muscle spasm, however there are some things you should consider before you grab your cold/hot pack!


ICE Tips:

  • Ice is more useful right after you get injured
  • Ice can be really helpful when you have a lot of pain
  • Ice is good for your body after a workout or exercising
  • Ice is helpful when you have any swelling:

    > Ice will cause your blood vessels to get smaller, which will directly reduce your swelling

    > It will also slow the speed of nerve conduction which will mask the pain signal that goes to your brain

HEAT Tips:

  • Heat is more useful when you have tension or spasms in your muscles
  • Heat is helpful in the mornings when your body and joints are stiff
  • Ice is good for your body after a workout or exercising
  • Heat is great when you want to improve your mobility or range of:

    > Heat will cause your blood vessels to open, which will increase your soft tissue temperature and help your muscles to relax

How long should I use ICE or HEAT?

  • 10 minutes for ice is best to reduce swelling (after 10 minutes your blood vessels will open again, so take a break after this amount of time)
  • 15 minutes for heat is best to relax your tissues

As with most things, there are other things to remember when you are using ice and heat to help your body. If you have reduced or impaired sensation, Raynaud’s Disease, have regenerating nerves or areas of impaired circulation…talk with your physical therapist before using ice or heat.


If you are still unsure what will be BEST for your body, then call us to talk with our experts😊

What are your next steps?

Let’s get the pain under control, find the root cause of what’s happening with your body and keep it from coming back so that you can enjoy your life!

The team of physical therapists at Breakaway Physical Therapy are ready to help you get back to the activities you love! Call us today at 410-721-6333 so that we can help you on your road to recovery!


Stephanie McKay

Stephanie McKay

Stephanie graduated from the University of Maryland Baltimore in 2011 with her Doctorate of Physical Therapy. During PT school, I completed a clinical internship in Women’s Health/Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy which gave me valuable clinical experience and opened my eyes to this much needed and often overlooked area of physical therapy. There are so many conditions/symptoms such as pelvic pain and incontinence which are mistaken for being normal just because they may be common in society, chronic, or attributed to pregnancy/childbirth, however this is not the case at all! I love that I can help my patients return to activities that they enjoy without symptoms. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, as well as exercising and being outside. I am excited to join Breakaway and to be a part of a team where there is focus on patient-centered care. I love to spend one-on-one time with my patients to ensure I am meeting their personal goals and to be able to give my patients the tools that they need so that they can maintain their progress even after discharge from PT.
Stephanie McKay

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