Should You Use Ice or Heat for Pain?

Should You Use Ice or Heat for Pain?If you’ve ever pulled a muscle or thrown out your back, you know that the pain can be immense or even debilitating. No matter how careful you are, it is inevitable that, at some point in your life, you will suffer from an injury, over-exertion, or something mild such as a headache or arthritis that will cause you pain and discomfort.

In mild cases, it is common for people to nurse their injuries at home with the RICE method: rest, ice, compression, and elevation. A common question that our patients often ask when deciding on home care asked is: ice or heat?

Ice or Heat?

Unfortunately, there is no one straight answer as it depends on the type of injury. The use of ice and heat therapies are common treatment methods for mild injuries as they help to control inflammation and blood circulation to the damaged area.

Cold therapy helps alleviate pain and swelling by constricting blood vessels, which reduces blood flow and numbs the pain in the affected region and helps to ensure that your condition won’t get worse. While heat therapy, relaxes tense muscles and increases blood flow to the specific areas to prevent stiffness and allow your muscles to heal faster.

We often recommend patients use a combination so that they can alleviate pain, swelling, and inflammation while also relaxing the muscles and soft tissue in the area.
Read on to find out which may work best for your symptoms.

Pulled Muscles, Strains, and Sprains

For most sports-related injuries such as sprains and strains, the first course of action should be to go for ice. It can help to reduce inflammation, such as swelling and tenderness, and numb the pain at the same time. Once the inflammation has subsided, switch out the ice for heat to treat stiffness, which may last for several days.


Headaches can come in a variety of forms, but they are usually related to nerves or blood vessels in the head or muscles in the neck and shoulders. If you have a throbbing pain in your head, apply ice to help numb it. If you suspect that your headache is the result of neck or back pain, use heat to relax the muscles. This may help to reduce the tension and pain that you feel in your head.


For chronic arthritic pain, heat is the best option. It helps to reduce stiffness in your joints and relax the tight muscles that are causing you pain. Switching between heat and ice can help to promote circulation and reduce inflammation in the areas that are causing you problems.


If you have gout and you are suffering from a flare-up, ice will help to numb the pain and reduce any associated swelling. Ice will work in any affected area, including the big toe, ankle, heel, knee, wrist, and elbow.


Tendinitis causes pain in your tendons when you participate in certain activities. Generally, you’ll feel it in your shoulders, knees, elbows, wrists, or heels. Your best bet is to use ice to reduce inflammation and to keep pain levels down.

Be Mindful of Your Condition

If you are using ice or heat to deal with pain, make sure that you do so safely. Wrap ice packs with a towel and make sure that heated items are not dangerously hot.

For most conditions, you can switch off between cold and hot treatment to promote healthy circulation. During treatment, we recommend if you need to alternate from hot and cold therapies to use 10-minute increments as needed throughout your session. Through these contrasting treatments therapy, we can stimulate your body’s natural energy to heal itself. This is ideal for patients recovering from acute injuries, joint aches, or those who may struggle with chronic pain.

If you do not find relief from these methods and your pain persists for several days, please contact your doctor immediately. As your chiropractic team, we are here to help you recover safely. In addition to heat and cold therapy, we can also provide adjustments, recommend certain stretches to promote better healing and recovery, massage therapy, and much more. To learn more about our treatment options or to make an appointment, contact Jeeo Health Center today.

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