Heat or Ice? What Works Best for Your Pain?

It’s no secret that taking part in regular physical activity increases your chances of injury. Training the body to move in certain ways and enduring hours of training will inevitably expose the body to strain and pressure. Have you ever found yourself with an ache or pain and been unsure how to treat it? In this blog we’ll explain which situations call for heat and which call for ice, as well as what to do if neither is helping.

What to choose and when

Firstly, a general rule of thumb is to use ice for recent, acute injuries that are less than 6 weeks old, and heat for long-term injuries that have been persisting for over 6 weeks. The reason for this is ice constricts the blood vessels, numbs pain and reduces inflammation, which is what is needed for a new injury. Heat, on the other hand, increases blood flow to relax tight muscles and aching joints. Heat can, however, increase inflammation in certain injuries, so it’s best to seek professional advice if you’re unsure of which element to use.

Heat is often best for:

  • Arthritis
  • Headaches caused by neck spasms
  • Muscle spasms
  • Tendinosis
  • Relieving stiffness of strains and sprains after inflammation has resolved

Ice is best for:

  • New injuries
  • Strains and sprains
  • Sports injuries
  • Throbbing headaches
  • Gout flare-ups
  • Tendinitis (commonly in the shoulder, elbow, knee, and wrist)


Applying Heat and Ice

A bag of frozen peas makes a great ice pack that adapts to the injured area. Conversely, a warm bath, heat wrap, or heating pad can be used for heat therapy.

Apply heat or ice for 20 minutes at a time, taking a break of at least 20 minutes in between sessions. Remove the heat or ice if it becomes uncomfortable and do not apply ice directly to the skin, wrap it in a lightweight cloth or towel.

Hopefully you won’t have to come into much contact with serious injuries, but if at-home heat or ice therapy isn’t improving your condition, give us a call. Umut, our wellbeing and recovery expert will be happy to welcome you to the GBTT Academy and assess to see if we can help.


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