Should I use ice or heat for an injury? When used at the right time ice or heat can be a gentle, safe, effective treatment for your pain or discomfort. However, when used at the wrong time they can delay healing and even make your pain worse.
Ice reduces pain and inflammation. If you sprain an ankle and it swells up and becomes painful you are likely to reach for the ice. However, inflammation is not necessarily a bad thing. Inflammation is your body’s process of healing the injured area. The tissue damage is the root cause of the problem, and as such should be the focus of any treatment. Ice will delay the healing process by slowing the inflammatory process.
Does this mean heat is best for an inflammatory acute injury? NO! Heat will cause the inflammation to get out of control. This can lead to a severe increase in pain and inflammation, delaying the healing process. Never put heat on an acute inflamed injury.
What about for chronic conditions where inflammation is not present? Your complaint will dictate the best choice. Ice will reduce “pain” while heat will loosen up “tight muscles” and “stiff joints”.