Heat vs Ice

It is often difficult for patients to determine whether ice or heat treatment is appropriate for an injury. Whilst heat often provides immediate comfort and relief, straight after an injury it may actually be causing more harm than good. Likewise, incorrect use of ice may also prolong injury recovery. If used correctly, however, appropriate ice and heat treatment can help to reduce bleeding, inflammation, swelling, muscle spasm and pain following injury.

When to Use Ice?

Ice treatment for injuries helps to reduce blood flow to the affected region. This is beneficial in the inflammatory phase of an injury (the first 72 hours following injury or injury aggravation) as it helps to reduce the amount of inflammation and swelling that accumulates in the injured region. Ice treatment may also help to reduce pain and muscle spasm. Ice should be applied for 20 mins every 2 hours during the inflammatory phase of an injury (first 72 hours).


When to Use Heat? 

Heat treatment increases blood flow to the affected region and is important to the healing process as it brings nutrients and oxygen to damaged tissue and assists in the elimination of waste products. Heat can also help to reduce pain and muscle spasm as well as reduce muscle tightness and joint stiffness. As a general rule, heat treatment should only be used after the initial 72 hour period following an injury when there are no inflammatory symptoms (such as pain at rest and achiness upon waking in the morning that eases with movement). Heat can be used to speed up injury healing once the injury has completed the inflammatory phase (usually around 3 days following injury). Heat should be applied for 10 – 30 mins 2-5x per day at a comfortable warmth to the injured area.

For further information about heat and ice  please download our Heat Vs Ice - End the Confusion Article

Did you know that Bodysmart also sells Contoured Heat Packs? These are available at both our St Georges Tce and Murray Street Clinics.

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