Ice vs. Heat

 

One of the most common questions we receive regarding pain is “should I be using ice or heat?”.  This is actually a very good question with no easy answer.  


There are some conditions where the answer is black and white; they either benefit from ice or heat.  Unfortunately, there are many times where the stage of injury is the determining factor.  Below is a chart that shows when to use one versus the other.  As a good rule of thumb the acute stage of an injury (the first few days after the onset) is the time to ice.  When the injury moves to the chronic stage (after a month or more depending on the nature of the injury) heat may be the more beneficial modality.  This is variable depending on what type of injury it is. 


When using ice always put some type of barrier between the ice and your skin.  The barrier should be at least a paper towel sheet thick.  When using a heating pad make sure it is wrapped in a towel (unless it is a disposable pad meant to be applied directly to the skin, see package directions if unsure). 


***Note: If ice or heat increases your symptoms discontinue immediately and contact your health care provider. 

 

Should I use ice or heat?