Chiropractic Blog
Chiropractic Blog

Heat or Ice? Which is Better for Your Pain?

Woman applying ice to her knee
Have you ever found yourself with an ache or pain wondering, “Should I apply heat or ice?” Here we’ll explain which situations call for heat and which call for ice, as well as what to do if neither is helping.

First off, a general rule of thumb is to use ice for recent, acute injuries that are less than 6 weeks old and heat for long-term injuries that have been persisting for over 6 weeks. The reason is ice constricts blood vessels, numbing pain and reducing inflammation, which is what you need for a new injury. Heat, on the other hand, increases blood flow to relax tight muscles and aching joints. Heat can increase inflammation in certain injuries, so give us a call if you are unsure which to use for your particular injury.

Heat is often best for:

  • Arthritis
  • Headaches caused by neck spasms
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tendinosis
  • Relieving stiffness of strains and sprains after inflammation has resolved

Ice is best for:

  • New injuries
  • Strains and sprains
  • Sports injuries
  • Throbbing headaches
  • Gout flare-ups
  • Tendinitis (commonly in the shoulder, elbow, knee, and wrist)

Applying Heat and Ice

A bag of frozen peas or corn makes a great ice pack that molds to the injured area. Conversely, a warm bath, heat wrap, or heating pad can be used for heat therapy.

Apply heat or ice for 20 minutes at a time, taking a break of at least 20 minutes in between sessions. Remove the heat or ice if it becomes uncomfortable and do not apply ice directly to the skin, wrap it in a lightweight cloth or towel.

When the Pain Isn’t Improving

If at-home heat or ice therapy isn’t improving your condition, give us a call. We’ll get you in for a visit to see if we can help.