Should I Use Heat or Ice for Pain? Did you get hurt during your workout? It’s time to grab the heating pad… or the ice pack… or both—who even knows! There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to using heat or cold to help treat common exercise injuries like strains, sprains, pulled muscles, shin splits, knee injuries and tenderness. Let’s put an end to it once and for all! Here’s your temperature care breakdown, so you know when it’s time to sing a song of fire or one of ice.

Ice, Ice, Baby

As a general rule, always choose ice for injuries and inflammation. Cold restricts blood flow and reduces inflammation and swelling. Whenever there’s bleeding in underlying tissue—think sprains, strains or bruising—ice treatment is the way to go. You can use cold therapy in two ways: immediate or rehabilitation.

Immediate treatment: helps prevent the injured area from becoming stiff by reducing tissue fluid.

Rehabilitation: aims to restore normal function to an affected area by reducing pain and spasms, which in turn allows for better movement.

If you have bad circulation, then cold therapy probably isn’t for you. If you apply ice for too long (or directly!) then skin, tissue or nerve damage becomes a possibility. Folks with cardiovascular disease should always consult with their doctor before using cold therapy.

Turn Up the Heat

Usually, heat is the best method for relaxing—whereas ice restricts blood vessels, heat opens them, increasing blood flow to an affected area. This is perfect for most aches and pains, and it’s also really great for repairing damaged tissue since increased blood flow stimulates healing. Minor stiffness and tension can usually be relieved with about 15-20 minutes of heat therapy.

Should I Use Heat or Ice for Pain?

Do not feel the burn! When using heat therapy, you want to keep a nice, even warmth. If you have swelling or bruising, heat isn’t the right call. Never use it near open wounds, and for people with heart disease or hypertension, always ask your doctor before using this treatment.

The Ultimate Treatment

When it comes to injuries caused by physical activity, cold and heat are super beneficial, but they’re not long-term solutions. A healthy musculoskeletal system is critical to overall health and healing, affecting how the entire body functions. Regular adjustments of the spine help return the body to a normal state, reducing tension and pain by utilizing the body’s natural healing process. Choosing chiropractic as the first line of defense once injured decreases the likelihood of surgery and further injury!