How to use Ice or Heat for Pain and Injury

Have you ever been advised to ice or heat an injury or condition, but not sure which to use or why?

Here is some information on how to use Ice and Heat effectively


  • Ice works best on inflammation, inflammation is the bodies natural response to injury or infection. When the brain senses severe pain or injury it signals the blood vessels and tissues in the area to swell to allow immune cells to travel quickly and easily to the sit of damage to start the repair process quickly and easily. This process is vital to healing, but due to the swelling itself, and the chemical components created from cell repair,  if it is left uncontrolled it can cause extreme pain. Ice is a great way to reduce inflammation.
  • Ice is useful for overuse injuries, arthritis, tendonitis, tendonosis, bursitis, acute disc problems, acute inflamed facet joints, sacro-iliac joints and many other joint problems. It can also be used on physical injuries (best used within 48hrs) to reduce swelling and alleviate muscle spasms.

How to ice effectively

  • you can buy freezable gel packs, or alternatively a pack of frozen peas works well
  • never place ice directly onto the skin, use a barrier cloth or a thin towel
  • ice for 1 minute then take it off for 1 minute, and do this for a max of 15mins, as if you hold ice in place for too long it can cause tissues to tighten up or stiffen
  • ice 2-3 times per day


Heat helps relax muscles and stimulates blood flow to the area. It can be effective pain relief for muscle tension. It is also helpful with chronic conditions where longterm tightness or damage has reduced circulation in the area as it will encourage repair cells to accumulate where it is applied.

Although, due to its muscle relaxing effects, heat will ease most pain conditions in the short term, it is not suitable to be used on its own in any conditions where inflammation is involved. Inflammation is a common component in injury and repair so it occurs in many conditions, for example any injury that feels warm, hot, sore, burning, sharp pain, acute injuries or recurrent flare ups, pain that is worse in the morning, or after periods of inactivity, or overuse, can all have an inflammatory element. These things will respond better to ice.

If you do want to use heat to make pain more comfortable you can do so as long as after you have relaxed with the heat you then apply a cool pack, or ice, to the area. This will disperse any additional cells that may have gathered during the application of the heat pack.

If you would like any more information on how to use heat or ice, or you have an injury or condition that you are seeking advice for, please contact our clinic on 07919163053 or visit our website  for a free chat or a full consultation.