Couve health chiropractic & physiotherapy

Couve health chiropractic & physiotherapy

When to Use Ice Therapy vs. Heat Therapy

Susan Richards-Benson

Susan Richards-Benson

Injuries are a common occurrence in life, and they can happen to anyone at any time. Whether it’s a sprained ankle, a strained muscle, or a bruise, injuries can be painful and disruptive. Two of the most common treatments for injuries are ice and heat therapy. Knowing when to use each one can make a big difference in how quickly you recover.

What is Ice Therapy?

Ice therapy, also known as cryotherapy, involves applying ice to an injured area to reduce inflammation and pain. Ice therapy is most effective when used within the first 48 hours of an injury. It can be used for acute injuries such as sprains, strains, and bruises, as well as chronic injuries like tendonitis and overuse injuries.

When you apply ice to an injured area, it constricts blood vessels, which reduces blood flow to the area. This reduces swelling and inflammation, which in turn reduces pain. Ice therapy can also help numb the area, which can provide additional pain relief.

What is Heat Therapy?

Heat therapy, also known as thermotherapy, involves applying heat to an injured area to increase blood flow and promote healing. Heat therapy is most effective for chronic injuries such as arthritis, muscle stiffness, and soreness. It can also be used for acute injuries after the initial swelling has gone down.

When you apply heat to an injured area, it dilates blood vessels, which increases blood flow to the area. This increased blood flow brings oxygen and nutrients to the area, which promotes healing. Heat therapy can also help relax muscles and reduce stiffness, which can improve mobility and reduce pain.

When to Use Ice Therapy vs. Heat Therapy

Knowing when to use ice therapy vs. heat therapy can be a bit confusing, but there are some general guidelines to follow.

Use Ice Therapy for:

  • Acute injuries (within the first 48 hours)

  • Swelling and inflammation

  • Pain relief

  • Reducing muscle spasms

  • Examples of when to use ice therapy include a sprained ankle, a pulled muscle, or a bruise.

Use Heat Therapy for:

  • Chronic injuries

  • Stiffness and soreness

  • Promoting healing

  • Improving mobility

Examples of when to use heat therapy include arthritis, back pain, and muscle stiffness.

It’s important to note that you should never apply heat or ice directly to the skin. Always use a barrier such as a towel or cloth to protect your skin from extreme temperatures. Also, never apply heat or ice therapy for more than 20 minutes at a time, and always wait at least an hour between treatments.

In conclusion, ice and heat therapy are effective treatments for injuries, but knowing when to use each one is important for optimal recovery. Remember to use ice therapy for acute injuries and swelling, and heat therapy for chronic injuries and stiffness. If you’re unsure which treatment to use, speak to your medical doctor.

At Couve Health, we take an integrative approach to wellness. Whether you have a recent or lingering injury, are looking to perform more efficiently at your sport, or just looking for a “tune-up,” we have the tools and experience to help you feel your best. Book your appointment with Couve Health online by clicking here.


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