Should You Apply Ice Or Heat?

Neck specialists in Arkansas - Ozark Orthopaedics

Should You Apply Ice Or Heat?

Ice packs and heating pads are common treatments in orthopedic injuries, but a lot of people are confused on which one to use.

When to use ice?

Apply an ice pack for acute injuries. Ice treatment can help in reducing the swelling, inflammation, and even pain.

If you suffer from a physical injury within 48 hours, an ice pack is the way to go. Applying an ice pack early and often during the first 48 hours can help in reducing the swelling, bleeding within the tissues, and in alleviating muscle spasms and pain.

Aside from acute injuries, ice treatment can also be part of a routine treatment for overused injuries such as tendinitis or bursitis. For cases like this, it is important to apply the pack immediately on the affected site after a physical activity. This is to preemptively treat inflammation.

The Right Way to Do Ice Treatment

Whether you’re using a freezable gel pack or a homemade ice pack, you should always be using a cloth barrier. Never place the ice directly on the skin.

Never ice an injury for over 20 minutes. It’s always better to do it several times a day than all at once.

If you have a heart condition, do not apply the ice pack on your left shoulder.

When to use heat?

Heat treatment is for chronic conditions. It helps relax and loosen tissues and stimulate blood flow to the affected site.

Heat treatment can be used for overused injuries but should be applied before the physical activity.

The Right Way to Do Heat Treatment

  • Use heating pads with caution as they can cause burns.
  • Always use moderate heat. It shouldn’t be causing you to sweat or feel uncomfortable.
  • When using a towel, do not heat it using boiling or scalding water.
  • Never use heat for swelling or damaged and broken skin.
  • Avoid using heat for extended periods of time (e.g. when sleeping).