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Heat or ice, which should you use?

Meg Smith

MSc, FCAMPT, CSCS, CAFCI

Physiotherapist

Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020
 
ice vs heat guide on a fridge in a kitchen

If you’ve ever wondered whether you should apply heat or ice to alleviate muscle soreness, check out this heat vs ice reference guide. It demonstrates how ice and heat work to ease discomfort, how they can be applied safely and when to use them. Click on the image below to access the downloadable guide!

ice vs heat infographic

Additional tips for using heat and ice packs
 

  • Don't apply cold for longer than 15 – 20 minutes because after that timeline the blood vessels actually stop constricting and start to dilate
     
  • There is no research to support “fancier” cooling systems than just a good old fashioned bag of frozen peas…although we don’t suggest eating the peas after using them as an ice pack;)
     
  • While inflammation causes pain and swelling, it is also your body’s natural repair process.  In the early stages of an injury it is perfectly normal to have inflammation as it will result in tissue healing.  Intermittent use of cold therapy, however, will improve your level of comfort during this period of tissue repair 
     
  • Topical agents (gels and creams) can still help with pain by having a numbing effect but may have less of an effect on circulation and should not be used in conjunction with ice or heat
     
  • Light physical activity such as walking, jogging, dynamic stretching also help to increase blood flow and warm the muscles and joints
     

Note: The information listed is intended as a general guideline. If you have questions or concerns related to your own injury or condition, please speak to your healthcare professional. Please exercise caution when using heat and / or cold applications, especially if you experience decreased sensation in certain areas of your body.

If you're looking for additional support and treatment plan to help further manage and ease your discomfort, please feel free to book an appointment.

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