Heat or Ice?

When to Use Heat or Ice?


Ice should be used when experiencing an acute pain. This is a pain which is sudden, sharp and may be short lived. It is often as a result of an impact injury. The area of injury is painful and becomes swollen and inflamed. It looks red and feels warm to the touch.  Ice reduces the swelling and inflammation and has some pain killing properties. The ice should be applied for no more than 10 minutes to the injured area. The injury should be allowed to return to room temperature, before applying the ice again, this can be repeated 2 to 3 times.  Usually ice is applied in this way for several times a day, for up to 3 days.Do not apply ice directly to the skin, but through a cloth.

If you have new soft tissue injury, ice should be used as part of the RICE regime (rest, ice, compression and elevation) to reduce the swelling and inflammation in the area.


Heat may be used on chronic pains. This is a pain which develops slowly, can be long lasting and is often experienced as a nagging pain. An acute pain, if not treated may become a chronic pain. There will be no redness, heat or swelling associated with this pain, if there is, do not use heat as this will make it worse. Heat relaxes and warms up the muscles, and will also reduce spasms. The heat can be applied for up to 15 minutes at a time. If you have a chronic pain e.g. knee, heat can be applied prior to any exercise to warm up the muscles, but do not use heat after exercise, use ice if it has become swollen.

If you have an injury, and it is still sore after a few days, you may need to seek medical advice.


If you have any further queries on heat and ice, please contact me.