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Should I Use Ice or Heat for Pain?

Posted by Renew Physical Therapy Portland on Friday, June 1, 2018

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Depending on the nature of your injury, you may wonder what treatment is more beneficial; ice or heat. While a combination of alternating ice and heat can be prescribed, there are a number of maladies that truly require one or the other.

For instance, arthritis sufferers can often find relief with the application of a heating pad with a moist rag barrier between the heating pad and the skin. Those with acute injuries should avoid heat therapy, as the heat can exacerbate inflammation and delay healing.

Folks suffering from sprains and strains can often find relief with alternating hot and cold therapy. Ice will reduce inflammation and numb pain while heat eases stiffness and relaxes muscles.


“Ice is usually recommended to use on an area that has inflammation, which causes it to be red, warm, swollen, and/or painful. Ice treatments are generally recommended for 15-20 minute applications. These applications are commonly used 4-6 times during the first 48 hours after a soft-tissue injury. Always cover the ice pack with a lightweight cloth so that it does not directly touch the skin. Rest, compression, and elevation are usually combined with the ice treatment.”

Heat is generally recommended for chronic aches and pains, or new and minor muscular pains. People often choose a heat pack for problems like a stiff neck or a sore back. The heat can help improve circulation and reduce muscle spasm. However, the application of heat could actually increase some inflammation issues. When in doubt, get a professional opinion. Use heat therapy carefully. It is not usually recommended for people who have diabetes or peripheral vascular disease. Athletes often use warm whirlpools to reduce muscle pain. People with arthritis of the hands commonly find relief in a melted paraffin treatment. And many of the elderly swear that heated swimming pools were made just for their aching bodies. The type of heat treatment relies on professional recommendations and/or personal preferences.


Ice will reduce inflammation and numb pain while heat eases stiffness and relaxes muscles.


Renew Physical Therapy is proud to serve Portland-area residents. Renew Physical Therapy utilizes several therapeutic modalities to restore pain-free function, including the use of moist hot packs and cold packs. We make it our personal goal to ensure that every patient who walks through our door has a positive experience.

If you are suffering from chronic pain, Renew Physical Therapy can help. Visit our About Us page to learn more about our practice, clinic, and staff. Call us at 503.928.4914 to schedule an appointment.

Renew Your Body, Reclaim Your Life!



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