Should I Use Heat Or Ice Therapies To Ease Pain?
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Should I Use Heat Or Ice Therapies To Ease Pain?

Heat or Ice

It’s well-known that ice and heat therapies can help to reduce pain, and swelling, and relax muscles.

But a common question our patients ask us on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis is, which one should I use?

The immediate answer is…it depends!

But we’re going to go deeper than that and explore some things you should take into consideration before you grab that heat or cold pack to soothe your aches and pains!

Should I Use Ice?

Ice is extremely useful in the moments immediately after you’ve been injured.

Most injuries cause your body to react with inflammation and swelling, which ice can ease and prevent.

Ice can also be really helpful when you’re experiencing a lot of pain as an ice pack can numb the painful area for a short period of time.

We’ve all been for that workout in the gym and come home feeling a little sore worrying about how we’re going to pay for it tomorrow.

Icing after you’ve finished an intense workout can help decrease your soreness and it even speeds up recovery so you’re not feeling so achy the day after. 

Should I Use Heat?

Heat is extremely effective when you’re experiencing tension or spasms in your muscles.

Applying heat to the affected area stimulates circulation which encourages healing and can loosen stiff joints and tight muscles.

If you’re prone to waking up in the morning with stiff joints, heat can also be beneficial to relax your muscles, give you a wider range of movement and prepare your body for your busy day ahead.

Heat also comes in a variety of different methods you can use including hot water bottles, taking a hot bath, heated gel packs, and even saunas or hot stones.

How Long Should I Use Ice Or Heat For?


You should use ice in 10-minute intervals to best reduce swelling. After 10 minutes, you should remove the ice and take a 2-hour break before reapplying. This is to allow your blood vessels to open up again and allow your blood circulation to return as normal.


Heat should be used in 15 minute intervals to increase circulation and relax muscles. As with cold therapies, you also need to give yourself a 2-hour break between heat applications, this will also protect your skin from injury.

Are Heat And Ice Therapies Safe For Everyone?

Generally, yes anyone can use heat or ice to try and relieve pain and swelling.

However, if you have reduced or impaired sensation in your skin, for example, you can’t feel the heat or cold due to nerve damage or you have impaired circulation, we would always recommend you speak to a physical therapist before trying ice or heat packs.

Are You Looking For Long-Term Relief?

Unfortunately, ice and heat therapies are very short-term solutions for people suffering from injuries and will not provide a permanent solution.

So as we move into the New Year and you’re looking at your goals and where you want to be next year, you will still be dealing with your pain or injury for the foreseeable future if you don’t get to the root cause of the problem.

That’s where we can help!

If you’re suffering from an injury that’s stopping you from enjoying your favorite activities, socializing, or limiting your independence, physical therapy may be the permanent answer you’ve been looking for!

We’re currently offering a New Year New Body Assessment where you can speak to one of our expert physical therapists who can identify the root cause of your pain problems and work with you to create a plan of care tailored to you and your recovery.

Start the New Year by making a step towards a pain-free life without fear of relying on pain medication, injections or scary surgeries by filling in our webform or calling us on 410-721-6333 to arrange your New Year New Body Assessment today.

Other Free Resources For Physical Therapy 

Read our blog – Why Does My Back Ache?

Read our blog – 5 Favorite Foam Roller Exercises

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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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