Should I Ice or Should I Heat Now?


There is a great debate about heat versus ice for pain. Everyone has experiences and recommendations that guide their decision making. My hard and fast rule: use which ever sounds like it would feel better! There are many reasons I have this rule but the biggest is: if it doesn’t feel good it is not going to help! If you are still unsure, here are some basic guidelines you can use to help you decide . . .

Ice is best used within the first 72 hours of an acute injury:

An Acute Injury is when an event happened and you knew immediately that you were injured or something wasn’t right.

  • if you have bruised your knee running into a opposing team player,
  • twisted your ankle landing from a jump shot,
  • strained your back or shoulder throwing from the outfield . . .


Heat is best used when you have muscles that feel tight or sore and stiff:

  • if you slept funny and woke up with a stiff neck,
  • if you walked a lot yesterday and today your hip is sore,
  • if you were working in the garden over the weekend and midweek you have a backache . . .


There are also some conditions that prefer one over the other.

Conditions that like ICE:

  • Tendonitis
  • Ligament Sprain
  • muscle strain
  • Swelling

Conditions that like HEAT:

  • Arthritis
  • stiff joints
  • back aches
  • muscle spasms
  • stress, anxiety


You have an open sore, stitches, infection, blood clot, cancer, circulation problems or sensation problems.


You have circulation problems or sensation problems, aversion to cold.

And those are just some of the reasons my rule is: USE WHICH EVER SOUNDS BETTER! Always ask your PT for clarification about your specific situation if you have questions!

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