Confused about when to use ice and when to use heat for an injury? You are not the only one. The hot vs. cold debate can seem complicated.

Confused about when to use ice and when to use heat for an injury? You are not the only one. The hot vs. cold debate can seem complicated. While it is important to respond quickly to an injury in order to reduce pain and assist with recovery, it’s also important to understand which method of therapy may be best for your specific hurt.  

 

What Types of Injuries Should You Apply Ice To?

Ice should be applied to an acute or new injury. An acute injury involves tissue damage and swelling. Some common acute injuries:

  • Ankle sprain
  • Knee sprain
  • Muscle or joint sprain
  • Acute pain after intense exercise

Applying ice early and often for the first 48 hours will help minimize the swelling and help control the pain. Limit icing to 20 minute periods and remove if the skin becomes irritated. Continue to ice for the next 24-48 hours.

 

What Types of Injuries Should You Apply Heat To?

Chronic pain or conditions call for heat therapy. The heat helps to relax and loosen sore muscles and stimulate blood flow. Some common chronic conditions:

  • Muscle pain and soreness
  • Stiff joints
  • Arthritis
  • Old/recurring injuries

Apply heat for 20 minutes. Avoid using heat for an extended amount of time. Never apply heat while sleeping.

Knowing which type of therapy to use for your injury will increase the effectiveness and therefore allow you to recover quicker. Be sure to contact your healthcare provider for serious injuries or if your pain and swelling does not improve within 48 hours.