HEAT vs. ICE

We often receive this question from many of our patients about whether they should use ice or heat and when they should do so.

RULE OF THUMB: Heat is for muscles, Ice is for Injuries

Heat

What It Does

Heat promotes muscle relaxation and can increase range of motion. It opens blood vessels to increase blood flow, relaxes muscles, and helps alleviate pain.

When to Use It

Heat is a great way to help loosen up tight joints and muscles. It is also a good method of pain relief for tension headaches and other chronic conditions. Always wait at least 48-72 hours before considering heat therapy. When in doubt, use ICE.

Helpful Tips

  • Treat for no longer than 20 minutes at a time
  • DO NOT lie on a hot pack to avoid falling asleep and potentially burning yourself
  • DO NOT use heat if you have no feeling in the affected part of your body
  • NEVER use heat if there is swelling or bruising
  • DO NOT apply heat directly to skin, use a thin towel
  • DO NOT use heat if you have poor circulation, such as with diabetes
  • Wait 1 hour between heat treatments

ICE

What It Does

Ice calms down damaged tissue and slows down the blood flow to an injury, reduces swelling and inflammation, and controls pain.

When to Use It

Ice should be used right after an injury or activity that aggravates a chronic condition. Ice is good for migraine headaches, bumps, sprains, and strains that may occur with sports, slips and falls, or lifting. Cold therapy is also helpful in treating overuse injuries or chronic pain in athletes. When in doubt, use ICE!

Helpful Tips

  • Treat for no longer than 20 minutes at a time
  • During treatment, check skin every 5 minutes to make sure there is no damage, such as freezer burn (skin would become reddened and blistered, just as when burned with heat)
  • DO NOT apply directly to skin, use a thin towel
  • Wait 1 hour between cold treatments

Important Note:

Both ice and heat can be part of corrective chiropractic care. Neither of these methods will work in injury or pain recovery one their own. Instead, they’re simply supplemental ways to reduce pain, inflammation, and stress which can aid in beginning stages of the corrective process.