Saturday, 12 November 2016

ICE Vs. HEAT : What's Better?

Ice vs. Heat - What's Better for Your Pain?


There is so much confusion regarding the use of Ice Or Heat for the Physical Pain. Ice and Heat are easy, natural. affordable ways to relieve the pain. Ice or cold therapy is known as "Cryotherapy" and heat therapy is knows as "Thermotherapy". So, wonder which one is better for one's particular problems. Here is the quick guide that explains when to ice, when to heat.


It is the application of ice or cold packs for the therapeutic use.  Cryotherapy is used for the acute injuries resulting from traumatic incidents for example, a fall, twisting movement or direct blow to any part of the body and immediately painful. 

Why cryotherapy  is for acute pain or injury?

When there is an acute injury, first occurs, bleeding, inflammation, swelling and pain. They must all be controlled for the proper healing of the injured body part. To control all these acute injury symptoms, the tissues need to be made cool, reduce their metabolic rate and nerve conduction velocity and constricting blood flow rushing towards injured part that are causing swelling. that's what a cold therapy have to do. It  constricts  blood vessels (vasoconstriction) of the surrounding region, dampen the nerve conduction which numbs pain and relieves inflammation and swelling.

Method:- Generally cold pack or ice is applied for 10 to 15 minutes at the injured part but can vary depending on the size of the area is being treated. This should be re-applied in every 2-3 hours of   regular interval.  Approximately, one should follow this regime for 3-5 days of an acute injury. Once bleeding has stopped and no signs of inflammation, one can start heat therapy. 

Note:- Do not use heat for acute injuries. It increases inflammation and can delay healing.


It is the application of heat for the therapeutic pain relieve. Heat therapy is used in chronic injury or pain, which tends to gradually build up over a period of days, weeks or even months. A chronic pain can be caused by overuse or bio-mechanical abnormality. Also caused by acute injury which fails to heal due to lack of or inappropriate treatment.

Why heat therapy is for chronic pain or injury?

 Chronic injury or pain have mild to severe pain, causing discomfort, soreness, tightness or stiffness in muscles or joints. In order to relieve chronic pain, one needs to relax the soreness, tightness arising due to long standing pain. Heating increases blood flows which relaxes tight muscles and relieves aching joints. It increases elasticity of the ligaments and tendons. It can also be used prior to exercises in chronic injuries, to warm the muscles and increase flexibility.

Method:-  Generally, heat therapy should be applied for 15-20 minutes in the form of heat belts, electric heating pads, hot water bottles, hot gel packs. heating should be applied with at most care. Use padding or towel or extra layer of protection over the skin to prevent burns.

Note:- Ice should be used on chronic pain or injury after exercise to reduce any residual swelling.

Here are the common problems and their solution, to whom to choose as a therapy "Cold or Heat".

  1. Arthritis:- Worn out cartilages in joints (knee, hip, shoulder, ankle, elbows, etc.)
    Heat. Moist heat eases stiff joints, releases tight muscles.  
  2. Gout Flare-Ups:-  Chronic irritation, arthritis (big toes, ankle, heel, knee, wrist, elbow, etc.)
    Solution:- Cold. Ice calms the flare up, numbs pain.
  3.  Tendinitis:-  Acute irritation after activity in tendon attached to joint like the shoulder, elbow,  knee, wrist,etc.
    Solution:- Cold. Eases inflammation, numbs pain.
  4. Tendinosis:- Chronic irritation and stiffness in the tendon attaching the joints.
    Solution:- Heat. Relives stiffness after the inflammation resolves.
  5. Sprain:- Stretching or tearing of ligaments in joints like knee, ankle, feet, elbows.
    Solution:- Cold- In beginning, ice ease inflammation, numbs pain.
                     Heat- After acute phase, it relives stiffness.

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