The Ice vs. Heat Debate

The Ice vs. Heat Debate

One of the most common questions a physical therapist is asked is “Should I use ice or should I use heat?”. While these are simple methods, both ice and heat offer highly effective healing, when used in the right situations. 

Ice is recommended for acute injuries (first 0-72 hours) as well as during any post surgical period to reduce swelling.  With new acute injuries, the tissues in the injured area are often inflamed.  Applying ice helps promote early healing, as it reduces inflammation and can also help with pain. 

Heat is recommended for more chronic, long-term injuries. Heat works its magic by increasing the blood flow to the injured area, loosening the muscles and decreasing stiffness.  After using heat as a treatment, patients often feel an increase in mobility and flexibility. Typically, heat is used once the initial inflammation phase has subsided (72 hours and beyond post injury unless told otherwise by a medical professional). 

RICE is commonly used as soon as possible after an injury or a fall. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Immediately after an injury it is important to rest the injured area, followed by icing for about 10 to 20 minutes a few times a day. Compression with an short stretch bandage (Rosidal K products), and elevation with pillows, can help decrease swelling of the injured area. Depending on your specific injury, your physical therapist will advise how long they recommend you ice, before switching to heat, but generally it is between 3-4 days. At that point, swelling should be down and heat can be used if necessary.  

If you have been injured, or are a sports enthusiast, having a Physical Therapist recommendation is a good idea to have. Feel free to reach out to us at Sarrica Physical Therapy & Wellness Center to see how we can help you.