How do I use ice or heat treatment for pain?

Both heat and cold treatment can help reduce pain

however, it can be confusing to decide which is more appropriate at any given time.

These basic rules for ice treatment and heat treatment may help:

Use ice packs for acute pain, swelling and inflammation. Use heat for chronic pain.These are general rules but if cold feels unpleasant, then heat may provide more comfort. Different types of injury need different treatments to heal properly. Ice and heat are not substitutes for medical evaluation and treatment.

Central London Osteopaty and Sports Injury Clinic

325 -327 Old Street, London, EC1


Ice treatment for pain

  • Ice is used to help fresh injuries. When your body is injured, the damaged tissue becomes inflamed, which can cause pain, swelling and redness.
  • Swelling is your body’s natural response to injury but unfortunately, local swelling tends to compress nearby tissue leading to pain.
  • How ice therapy works:
  • Ice numbs the injury and narrows blood vessels which slows down blood flow which can reduce fluid build-up in the affected area. Ice is believed to reduce inflammation and swelling. Ice relieves pain although not treating the underlying cause.
  • When should I use ice therapy?
  • Ice is best for acute injuries caused by recent tissue damage, when the injury is recent, red, inflamed, or sensitive. Cold therapy can also help relieve any inflammation or pain that occurs after exercise; this is a form of acute inflammation. However, unlike heat, you should apply ice after going for a run.
    Cold treatment can reduce post-exercise inflammation. Cold therapy can sometimes also help relieve pain in chronic injuries.
  • Types of ice therapy: Ice should only be applied locally. It should never be used for more than 20 minutes at a time. You can use an ice pack, a damp towel, which has been cooled down in the freezer, a bag of frozen peas.
  • Do not overuse ice treatment as it can lead to cold burns of the skin. Keep a tea towel between the skin and the ice and apply for no longer than 10 minutes, but repeat a few times with a rest of 5 minutes in between.
  • Do not apply on areas of circulatory conditions.
  • How do I use heat therapy for pain?

    Why do I use heat for Pain Relief?

    Heat is relaxing. That’s why overworked muscles respond best to heat. Heat stimulates blood flow and relaxes spasms. Heat therapy is also known as thermotherapy.

    How does heat therapy work?

    Overworked muscles become sore because of a chemical called lactic acid. Lactic acid accumulates when the muscles are put under stress and deprived of oxygen. This build-up creates painful muscles. Heat therapy can restore blood flow and speed up the removal of lactic acid from muscles.

    When do I use heat therapy?

    Heat is best for treating chronic pain. Chronic pain is persistent or recurrent pain. Heat increases blood supply. It stimulates the elimination of toxins. It also relaxes soreness and stiffness to bring relief. If you suffer from an ongoing injury, apply heat before exercising. Applying heat after exercise can aggravate an injury.


    Types of Heat Therapy:

    There are two types of heat therapy: local heat and systemic heat. Local heat is applied to a specific area with: moist heat (hot, damp towel), hot water bottle or heat pad.

    Systemic heat:

    hot bath, sauna, steam bath or hot shower.

    Tips for Applying Heat:

    Local heat - wrap heat sources within a folded towel to prevent burns. Apply for around 10 minutes at the time and repeat until youi feel more comfort. Avoid prolonged exposure to systemic heat therapy and stay hydrated.

    With osteopathy, physiotherapy, applied kinesiology and sports injury clinics in kings cross and Shoreditch, we are conveniently located for Central London, the City, North, West, South and East London. Our Pentonville Road clinic is serving Islington, Kings Cross, Euston, St Pancras, Moorgate, West end, Camden, City, Chelsea, Harley Street, Kensington, Knightsbridge and post codes:N1, W1, W2, W8, NW1, WC1, WC2, EC1, EC2, EC3, EC4, SE1 for a complete health care.
    Our Hoxton clinic is serving Shoreditch, City, Hackney, Canary Wharf, Liverpool Street and post codes: EC1, EC2, EC3, EC4, E1, E2, N1.