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Ice or Heat? Tips for Choosing the Right Pain Relief

Author: Rosemary Buckle, M.D.

Ice and heat are two of the easiest – and most effective – methods for treating injuries, bruises, and swollen joints. One of the best things about hot and cold therapy is that just about anyone can do it at home without any assistance. Whether you’ve suffered a running injury, other sports injury, or suffer from arthritis, you can talk to your doctor about getting relief through hot and cold therapy.

Sports Injury Pain Relief In Houston

An infographic published by Cleveland Clinic brings some clarity to the question, “Should I use heat or ice for my injury?” See the full infographic reposted below. A few highlights worth noting:

  • Ice generally works well for injuries that are fewer than six weeks old. This is due to the fact that ice constricts blood vessels, which helps reduce swelling/inflammation, control bruising, and numb pain.
  • Heat generally works well for arthritis and injuries that are over six weeks old by increasing blood flow, relaxing tight muscles, and providing relief to aching joints.
  • Do not use heat on acute injuries. Even if the heat feels good, it can increase inflammation and slow the body’s natural healing process.


Injuries That Respond to Heat

  • Many people find some pain relief from arthritis through heat. A heat pad can relax muscles and stiff joints.
  • Next time you have a headache, try using heat to relax painful neck spasms.
  • Sprains – some of the most common sports injuries – respond to both heat and ice. Wait until the initial inflammation resolves, then use heat to relieve stiffness.

Injuries That Respond to Ice

  • If you experience a strain, use ice to immediately ease inflammation and manage pain. (Once the initial inflammation has resolved, you can use heat to help with stiffness.)
  • Ice also helps with tendinitis (acute irritation in the tendons).

Ice is commonly used for treating running injuries. As a Houston specialist in sports injury pain relief, I frequently recommend R.I.C.E. for pain relief and healing. View this blog post for some guidance on safe and effective R.I.C.E. techniques. Of course, many injuries require more advanced therapies in addition to R.I.C.E. You can learn more about our services here.

Schedule Your Appointment for Pain Relief In Houston

To schedule your appointment at Houston Institute for Sports Medicine and Orthopedics, call (713) 756-5546. You can also schedule your appointment online. We help patients treat running injuries, pain from arthritis, and much more. Don’t delay getting the treatment you need!
Please consult with your physician before undertaking any form of medical treatment or adopting any exercise program or dietary guidelines.