Hot or Cold?

Heat or Cold? When to Use it and How


Have you ever been in a situation where you were dealing with a body ache or pain but didn’t know whether you should use ice or heat to help with the problem? Well, we have your short guide to maximize your recovery and getting you back on track without your nagging pain.

As a general rule of thumb, you should use ice for acute injuries or pain, along with situations dealing with inflammation and swelling. When you think of acute injuries or swelling, this could be anything from a sprained an ankle to having a surgery, such as a knee replacement. You should use heat for muscle pain, stiffness or stress that is unrelated to acute injuries or trauma such as back pain.

Cold therapy, otherwise known as cryotherapy, is a form of recovery that reduces blood flow to an area, which can reduce inflammation and swelling. Ice is most effective when it is applied early and often for the first 48 hours. For at-home treatment, apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the affected area. Never apply the cooling item directly to skin because this could damage your skin and tissue. Cold therapy should be done several times a day for about 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Another option is full body cryotherapy. Trinity has their own business extension dedicated to this model of therapy, in fact, we share an office at our Boerne location. CryoFit Boerne is dedicated to full body cryotherapy and recover.


Heat therapy, on the other hand, increases the temperature to a particular area of your body – improving blood flow and circulation. This increase in temperature can soothe discomfort, increase muscle flexibility, relax muscles and heal damaged tissue. Heat can also be used before activities that can aggravate chronic injuries, such as muscle strains. We do not recommend using heat therapy if the area in question is bruised or swollen as cold therapy would be a better option, or if you are dealing with an area that has an open wound.

Have further questions on a recent injury or would like a consultation on a particular area that has been giving you problems? Contact Trinity Adult and Pediatric Orthopedic Specialists to schedule an appointment or learn about our services and procedures.



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