Ice or Heat for Relief
and Facilitating Healing
By: Janis Jenkinson, RMT
This is a common question people have about treating their condition or
injury at home.  What's better: ice or heat?

To answer that question, you first need to determine the stage of the
injury: acute or chronic.

The acute stage of an injury will typically cause pain at rest/constant
pain with movement causing the intensity of the pain to increase.  Pain
may be felt over a diffuse area and difficult to pinpoint.  The temperature
over the site of the injury may be elevated and warm to the touch.  The
affected area may be red and tender.  Swelling and inflammation are
also indicative of an acute injury.  If the above describes your signs and
symptoms, you should use ice on your injury.  Ice is best used
immediately following an injury (or re-injury) to decrease swelling and

If the condition is chronic, no pain will be felt at rest but rather with
specific movements/activities.  Pain is localized over the area of injury.  
Movement may be decreased by soft tissue tightness.  If there is no
swelling or inflammation, it is safe to apply heat to your injury.  Heat
works well to help relax tight muscles and decrease muscle stiffness.
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