You have sustained an injury. Whether it is a bruise, strain or soreness, you want to do something to help alleviate the pain and aid in the recovery of whatever ails you.

But what do you use, heat or ice? Which one works better for what ailment?

Let’s break it down:

Applying heat to an injury temporarily increases your blood circulation in the area to which it is applied. Doing so is beneficial because the increased blood flow assists in removing toxins from your site of pain or discomfort. It also means that more oxygen is reaching the pain site and also more nutrients are sent to the damaged tissue.

Heat can also mask pain sensations. Applying heat to where the pain is prompts the thermos receptors in your brain to block your body’s pain transmitters from sending signals of pain to your brain. The application of heat also helps to relax and stretch your muscles, increasing your ability to use the tissue as it becomes more flexible. Use to help soothe aches, increase muscle flexibility and heal damaged tissue.

Heat therapy can include heating pads, wraps or packs, saunas, steamed towels or a hot bath.

*Do not use heat if you have a bruise, swollen area or an open wound.
*Consult your doctor if you have any conditions that may worsen by heat therapy.

Use ice or cold when you want/need to numb any pain that is sharp or if you are trying to reduce inflammation that causes pain. It reduces blood flow to the affected area, which thus reduces inflammation and swelling. Cold therapy involves using ice packs, gels, sprays or ice baths and massages.

Apply cold therapy as soon as you can after suffering the injury. Wrap up an ice pack in a towel and administer it to the affected area. Do not apply the frozen item directly to your skin as that will do damage. Keep the cold therapy periods to 15 – 20 minutes a few times a day.

*It will not help any joints or muscles that are stiff. Do not use cold therapy if you have a sensory disorder.