Heat vs. Ice

Heat vs. Ice

The ultimate battle of using heat vs. ice to reduce pain can bring some confusion. How can you know which to side to choose? Although this debate can get technical, our goal is to keep it simple. In general, ice is for injuries & heat is for muscle strain, stress, and chronic pain.


Ice can be used on inflamed muscles that are trying to recover. Inflammation is a natural and healthy process…however, it can be painful and slow. Ice is a great way to dull the pain without medications. Ice should be used for 10-15 minutes at a time.


Heat can be great for taking the edge off symptoms like muscle aches and stiffness. Pain often comes with stress and tightness. Heat can help to loosen tight muscles, reduce stress, and bring peace to a worried mind. When the mind is more relaxed, stress is relieved, and with less stress comes less pain. When applying heat, we recommend leaving it on for 15-20 minute intervals.

Heat and Ice DON’TS!

Do not add heat to a new injury, it will cause excess swelling and pain in the area. Remember, ice is for injuries. On the flip side, ice can upset an already tight and stiff muscle. Don’t ice or heat when it is unwanted for your body. This means don’t use ice when your cold, and don’t add heat when you’re already sweaty. This confuses your body, and causes it to feel threatened. When the body feels threatened, it can turn up the pain.

If ice is for injuries, and heat is for muscles…what do you use for injured muscles??? Typically, ice is the answer. However, ice is typically only used for the first few days at most. An injured muscles is classified by a sudden and intense pain during a strenuous activity. This is a good time to heal with ice, then move to heat when the worst is behind you.

The hot & cold sandwich…

If you are recovering from an injury (wait 1 week), we recommend a cool ice sandwich. Apply ice (10 mins), then heat (15 mins), then ice again (10 mins). This helps to heal the area, and reduce inflammation.

If you suffer from chronic pain try a tasty hot sandwich. Apply heat (15 mins), then ice (10 mins), and finish with heat (15 mins). This both treats and relaxes the pain.

Don’t forget about you!

Your preference is an important factor. Your body cares what feels best to you. If ice feels best on a hot summer day, then do it! If you would rather apply heat because it feels better, than go for it! Keep in mind that your body knows what it needs, so don’t forget to listen!