Hot or Cold?

Hot or Cold?

Most of the times when you get an injury, there is the debate whether you should use cold therapy or heat therapy. I get asked that question multiple times during therapy sessions with my clients. Let’s talk about what the benefits are for heat therapy and cold therapy. I am going to mention specifically the use of ice and heat (moist heat or dry heat), things that can be purchased in your local pharmacy.

Heat Therapy

  • Includes use of (microwavable or electrical heating pads)

Benefits of Heat:

  • Increases blood flow to injured region
  • Relieve muscle spasms/trigger points
  • Improve muscle flexibility
  • Promote tissue healing
  • Reduce pain

Examples of when to use heat:

  • Chronic injuries
  • After a long day at the office

**When applying heat, be sure to keep it on for no more than 20 minutes unless specified by a health care practitioner

Cold Therapy

  • Includes use of freezable gel packs, ice cubes

Benefits of Cold: 

  • Decreases inflammation
  • Reduces blood flow to injured region
  • Decreases muscle spasm
  • Reduces pain
  • Reduces bruising

Examples of when to use ice:

  • Acute injury (occurred within 24 hours)
  • Swelling to the joint that is warm to touch
  • Cooling down after an intense workout

** When applying ice, do not leave on for more than 20 minutes and make sure you always have a layer (towel) between the ice and the skin

Which one should I use?

Now the answer to this question depends on how long your injury has been and how your injury presents itself. If it is warm to the touch, swollen, and recent I would consider using ice. If the injury has been there for a while, there are a lot of muscle spasms and tightness, then I would consider using heat. Now please note that all individuals are different and some people might be more sensitive to heat/ice and may even have an allergic reaction to ice/cold (Reynaud’s Disease). Please consult with a healthcare professional before applying either if you are unsure!