One of the most frequent questions I get asked by patients is whether they should be using ice or heat on the area of discomfort or pain. Although there are a number of different reasons for using ice or using heat, here is a brief summary of the most common reasons for applying these very different treatment options.


Ice is mainly used for the treatment of acute injuries, those that have occured within the last 48 hours. It is during this period that swelling results as part of the injury and ice is perfect in reducing swelling and minimising pain. If used frequently in the first 48 hours of injury the swelling will be greatly reduced and the pain subsequently controlled.

Ice can also be used during injuries of over-use, which can be chronic in nature. In this instance it is important to use ice immediately after the activity that aggravates the area otherwise causing inflammation.

It is important to make sure that the ice applied to any area is covered well ensuring the ice never comes into direct contact with the skin. The best option is to wrap some frozen peas in a tea towel or to use a purchased icepack designed specifically for the treatment of injuries.


Heat is mainly used for chronic conditions where it is important to relax the muscles and loosen the tissues around the injury. In the world of sport most athletes and sportsmen will apply heat to problem areas before an activity, and then apply ice shortly after to avoid inflammation. This shouldn’t only apply to sports but should be considered for all scenarios where chronic pain is aggravated by any activity, even walking to the shops.

Be sure to limit the amount of time you apply heat pads for and be sure not to fall asleep with them on any area.


Ice or Heat?
Ice Heat
When To Use Use ice after an acute injury, such as an ankle sprain, or after activities that irritate a chronic injury, such as shin splints. Use heat before activities that irritate chronic injuries such as muscle strains. Heat can help loosen tissues and relax injured areas.
How To Do It Read through the information on how to ice an injury. There are several ways to ice an injury. Heating pads or hot wet towels are both excellent methods. Place a washcloth under hot tap water and then apply to the injured area.
For How Long Apply ice treatments for no longer than 20 minutes at a time. Too much ice can do harm, even cause frostbite; more ice application does not mean more relief. It is not necessary to apply a heat treatment for more than about 20 minutes at a time. Never apply heat while sleeping.


If you are experiencing any pain as a result of inury or feel that it’s time to address that chronic discomfort, contact Espina Chiropractic Clinic on 01235 410708 or email