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Ice vs. Heat

Inflammation is a protection mechanism the body uses when trying to heal itself.  Ice is the best thing to use to reduce that inflammation. Ice causes the blood and debris to be drawn away from the site of the injury, thus reducing inflammation and allowing a fresh supply of blood an nutrients to then re-enter the injury site and promote healing.  


In contrast,  heat causes a fresh supply of blood to flow to the injury quickly. It helps with mobility, but also causes more inflammation, which can make things worse in the long run.

The worst thing that ice can do is absolutely nothing.   Just be sure to place something between your skin and the ice, as ice can actually burn if placed directly on your skin.

When to use Ice
  • When first injured, ice immediately for 20 minutes.

  • While recovering, ice for 20 minutes immediately following work, sports or exercise.

  • Ice for 20 minutes prior to going to bed at night.  If you shower in the evening, ice after showering. 

  • Never ice for more than 20 minutes at a time.

  • You can ice several times a day if you aren't active.  

  • Be sure you leave at least an hour between icing.  It takes 45 minutes to an hour for fresh blood to return to the injury after icing.  This is essential as fresh blood carries the nutrients to heal your body.


When to use Heat
  • ALWAYS use MOIST heat.  The best sources of moist heat are:

    • 1) a hot shower, 

    • 2) a Thermaphore moist heating pad (available at Amazon)

    • 3) Thermacare heat wraps (available at most drug stores).

  • Take a hot shower in the morning to bring blood flow to the injured area and help increase mobility.

  • If you have an active job or lifestyle, be sure to keep the injured area warm prior to exercise and while moving around.  

  • Never use heat just before bed.


Alternate Heat and Ice for added benefits
  • Alternating ice and heat helps to confuse the muscles, which in turn causes them to relax.

  • When alternating, always start and end with ice. (i.e. Ice - Heat - Ice).

When in Doubt

Use Ice

Knowing when to use ice or heat can be confusing. It's worth learning when to use ice and heat properly as this can play a major role in facilitating a more rapid recovery. 

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