Which is better to use, heat or ice? This is probably one of the most common questions that I get asked. Here’s a general guide to help you decide if you should use ice or heat!
When to ice:
- An acute injury; a joint sprain or muscle strain that happened less than a week ago
- If there is inflammation- the area is red, warm, or swollen or after surgery
- Tendonitis, overuse, or repetitive activity that results in pain. Think elbow pain after playing tennis, knee pain after running, or shoulder pain after painting your ceilings all weekend
When to heat:
- Stiff or tense muscles. Think low back soreness from sitting all day or neck pain related to tension
- Muscle cramps, spasms, or trigger points
- Joint stiffness related to osteoarthritis
*These are general guidelines- everyone may not react the same to using heat or ice. Both are helpful to temporarily relieve pain, but I would always recommend using ice with an acute injury or if there is inflammation. Otherwise, if you’re not sure, experiment with either to determine which provides you with the most relief!