Heat or Ice, Which is Better?

A common question in our office, one which you’ve probably thought about before as well, is “Heat or ice, which is better?”. This is a great question! Which is better depends on the situation but we’ll discuss the topic in more detail in today’s article and give you some tips on whether you should be using heat or ice.

General Rule of Thumb

A general rule of thumb is that if it is a brand new injury with an inflammatory response then ice is what you should use. How do you know if there is inflammation? If there is redness, swelling or heat in the area of the injury then that indicates inflammation is present. Usually within the first 72 hours of an injury you want to use ice.

Heat is the preferred modality for injuries or pain that has been around longer than 72 hours. Heat helps bring fresh blood flow to the area and facilitates with helping tight and spasmed muscles to relax. Most people find heat to be more comfortable and relaxing. If you use heat too early in the healing process and can cause an increase in pain. If you are still unsure, please make sure to ask next time you are in the office.


This topic brings us to the discussion of inflammation. Inflammation in the body can be painful, but let’s remember that the human body is designed perfectly to be a self-healing machine, and inflammation is a normal part of this process. When the body detects an injury inflammation is created to protect the area from further injury and to help heal the area. This is why taking anti-inflammatories or icing too much may delay the healing process.

So, yes you will temporarily feel better by controlling the inflammation, but the actual healing may take longer. That is why it is important to have a good balance of different factors during the healing of any injury or disease. It is important to honor, respect and listen to all the signals your body gives you. We can help you navigate these oftentimes confusing symptoms and guide you along the way in your healing process.

Your Turn

When was the last time you had to use heat or ice for your injury or inflammation? Tell us your story by commenting below!



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