Ice vs. Heat: Which Works Best for Pain Relief?

Pain relief has been a top requested service this summer, and we continue to look for innovative ways to help. But sometimes we need to take matters into our own hands when we can’t wait for an appointment with a specialist or we need some relief between visits. So, people often ask, “Should I use ice or heat?”

Here are some quick tips to help choose wisely.

1. Is the pain from a recent injury? If it happened within the past 48 hours, ice is the best option. Ice will help stop the inflammation from progressing and numb the pain. Acute injuries respond well to icing, on and off at 20-30 minute intervals as often as possible for the first 48 hours post injury. This goes for muscle, bone and joint injuries.

2. Is the pain from a recurring old injury that was aggravated by activity? If you haven’t felt it for a while, then it suddenly comes back, treat it like it’s a new injury — that means ice again. Same as above. Ice it for up to two days until the worst of the pain subsides. Old injuries that are re-injured are just like new ones, except that people often ignore the old ones because they have built up tolerance. That’s a bad idea. Ice it again as if it just happened.

3. After 48 hours … heat. The same goes with old, chronic muscle injuries. Heat will help promote circulation to the area, bringing in new white and red blood cells to nourish and heal the injury.

4. Some studies show that chronic injuries with nagging pain also respond well to switching off between ice and heat in the same 20-30 minute intervals. It’s possible the changing temperature alters nerve sensation and triggers a healing response. It’s an easy option you can do at home with no risk; so if the pain is lingering, feel free to try this as well.

Finally, with acute pain that doesn’t resolve quickly, or in almost any case of chronic pain, it is best to get checked out by a physician. There are many options for treatment including acupuncture, massage, yoga, physical therapy, chiropractic, anti-inflammatory medications and supplements. One highly successful option we now offer at FreshSkin Medical Spa & Wellness Center is Radio Frequency (RF) for soft tissue (muscle, tendons, ligaments) pain and inflammation. It is helpful for both chronic and acute pain and inflammation, including arthritis.

Whatever option you choose, be safe while staying active. And don’t let pain keep you down! We are here to help!


595 Elm Place, Suite 208  |  Shops on Elm
Highland Park, IL 60035