Man suffering from back pain, choosing the right treatment for an injury
Man suffering from back pain, choosing the right treatment for an injury

Heat or Ice – How do you choose?

One of our most commonly asked questions is – should I use a heat pack or an ice pack? It all depends on the kind of injury you have, and which part of the body has been hurt. Different kinds of injuries require a certain kind of treatment – and depending where it is, you’ll want to treat it with either a warm or cold compress. But how do you know which one to use when?

We’re here to break down some of the differences between cold vs hot packs. Read on to find out more.

When to use hot vs cold packs

Here is a general guide to follow if you’re wondering whether to use ice or heat for sore muscles.

Ice packs are designed to provide pain relief and numb the site of the injury, while also reducing bruises, inflammation and swelling. A cold compress will also reduce any bleeding. This is because ice causes the blood vessels and arteries to narrow, slowing blood flow to the area.

Ice is best to use in the first few days after an acute soft tissue injury. Signs of tissue damage include redness and swelling. While applying a cool compress, it’s also important to rest, compress and elevate the injury.

Meanwhile, hot packs are ideal for soothing sore, tight muscles, chronic pain and stiff joints. It also improves your circulation and increases tissue relaxation. This is because warmth causes the blood vessels to open up and increase blood flow to the area. You might also a hot water bottle or soak a towel in warm water.

Please note: it’s important to not apply heat for the first 48 hours after an injury. It also isn’t recommended to treat bruises, swelling or acute sprains this way, as it can actually increase the pain and swelling you’re experiencing. It will also delay the healing process.

How to treat with a warm or cold compress

To treat an injury with a warm or cold compress, apply a towel to act as a barrier against your skin (this reduces the risk of blistering or burns). Then apply for 20 minutes, then keep off for 2 hours.

Speak to us for expert advice

We’ve worked to put together a basic PDF document that explains this in slightly more detail – but as with anything, please give us a call or send us an email if you have any further questions about this! Click here to access the document: Heat or Ice – How do I choose?

When it comes to treating some of the most common sporting injuries, the team at BodyMotion Physio are fully experienced, trained and qualified. You can reach us on (03) 9873 3333, email or arrange an appointment to see our specialists at 216 Mitcham Rd, Mitcham.