Ice vs. Heat for Injuries

Icing or heating an injury will help to reduce swelling, speed recovery and decrease pain. But how do you know if you should ice or heat an injury?

Icing an injury is the first step in helping with recovery. Placing an Ice pack on an injury will help to reduce swelling and blood flow as well as alleviate pain. By applying ice to an injury within the first 72 hours has been proven to reduce injury recovery time. Applying ice is also good for recovery when you may be training hard or are feeling fatigued. The ice bath is a favorite after-workout recovery for many athletes, and while it may be uncomfortable at first, it helps to speed up muscle recovery.

Heating an injury with a heat pack is done when the injury becomes chronic and is mostly used to alleviate pain. Heat packs can be applied directly to the skin or with a towel on the skin. The heat increases the blood flow to the area, so it should only be used after swelling is no longer a concern. Heating an injury for 20 minutes at a time will loosen muscles around the area and provide pain relief. Heating is a great option for someone who is suffering from chronic pain in a very specific area.

Ice vs. Heat will always be a topic where professionals will have a difference of opinion as to when to use each. Our guide gives you a basic idea, but if you have further questions or need to discuss a specific injury, you should contact your doctor.