Should I Use Ice or Heat for Pain?



At some point or the other, all of us have experienced pain. Could it be neck pain, shoulder pain, back pain or ankle pain. Pain is always bothersome and it’s not unusual for us to try a number of different methods to get rid of the pain.

Two of the most powerful methods of alleviating pain is applying either Ice or Heat. But unfortunately, there is so much of confusion about what kind of treatment should be used for different pain and injuries. How do you know when to use ice and when to use heat? This age-old question can be answered best after taking into account the Type of Injury (acute vs chronic) and symptoms.

An Acute injury is one that has occurred within last 48 hours. It is the result of sudden trauma such as fall or collision.

A Chronic injury usually develops slowly because a body part is being overused or because an acute injury has healed improperly.

Ice is commonly used for Acute Injuries.

Ice calms down damaged superficial tissues that are inflamed, red, swollen and hot. It is mostly just a mild, drugless way of dulling the pain of inflammation and reducing the swelling.

How to apply ice:

When using ice for pain relief, you should never apply it for longer than 20 minutes. It is important that you do not use ice for injuries if you have circulation problems, as this can cause you more problems moving forward. Also, note that applying too much of ice can cause tissue damage, so while it can be tempting to apply more ice to ease the pain, it could actually have the opposite effect.

Heat is commonly used for Muscles, Chronic Pain, and Stress.

Heat helps to take an edge off symptoms like muscle stress, stiffness, chronic pain. It can sensitize, comfort and soothe your mind and nervous system.

How to use Heat:

It can be applied to injuries via the number of different ways. Baths, hot water bottle or heating pads are the popular options. Do not apply heat more than 20 minutes at a time and never apply heat while sleeping. Be careful not to burn yourself. Always use an extra pair of towels.

What if I use the Wrong Treatment?

It is not life-threatening but there can be some ramifications. If you use heat on inflamed muscle, it could increase the inflammation further. Similarly, ice can make the tensed muscle full tense and stiffer.



Dr. Mansi Parikh,

Co-Founder of EndoRush App