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To Heat Or Ice Your Latest Injury…That Is The Question.

| October 7, 2015

Did you ever wonder what was best to use for your injury, pain, or discomfort? If you answered “yes,” you’re in good company. I don’t make it through a day without having a patient ask me, “is it best to apply heat or ice to my injury.” Since there are many factors that come into play in making this decision I have boiled it down to  a few simple guidelines. Once you have figured out whether ice or heat is best for your unique circumstance, then it is important to best understand the proper application technique and duration.


  • Ice is best for an acute injury, pain, swelling, and inflammation
  • Ice should be used 24 to 48 hours after an initial injury
  • Ice after exercise to minimize pain
  • Ice can be used on bruises
  • Ice can be used for acute gout flare ups
  • Ice can be used for throbbing head pain

How to properly apply ice:

  • Make homemade gel ice packs:
  •      1 gallon plastic freezer bag + 2 cups water  + 1 cup rubbing alcohol
  •       Fill the plastic bag with 2 cups water + 1 cup rubbing alcohol and leave the bag in the freezer for at least 1 hour prior to use
  • Remember to place a towel between your skin and the gel pack
  • Apply for 20 minutes at a time


  • Heat helps open up blood vessels to assist with increasing blood flow and supplying oxygen to sore muscles, ligaments, and tendons
  • Heat can be used for chronic pain
  • Heat can decrease muscular spasms
  • Heat helps loosen up injured muscles before activities
  • Heat can help increase range of motion
  • Heat can be used for stiff joints or chronic muscle
  • Heat can be used for chronic joint pain(osteoarthritis)
  • Heat can be used for painful neck spasms related to headaches

How to properly apply heat:

  • Heat can be applied through a dry heat (electric heating pad) or moist heat (uncooked rice, oatmeal & warmed in a cloth)
  • Place a towel between your skin and the heat pack
  • Do not ever fall asleep with heat on your body – be careful not to burn your skin
  • Apply for 20 minutes at a time

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