Heat Or Ice - Which Is Right For Your Aches, Pains And Swelling? Expert Decodes

Both heat and ice packs are immensely beneficial for treating injuries naturally. While the two complement each other, you must know which one to use for what kind of issue to relieve your pain and inflammation. Popular chiropractor Joe Gulotta has all the answers.
Heat or ice pack which is good

Both ice and heat play important roles in relieving muscle or joint pain, but each works on your body differently

Millions worldwide suffer from pain and inflammation regularly. Where there are over-the-counter medicines to help relieve and alleviate your discomfort, many natural and alternate methods are good to go too. Experts recommend using the R.I.C.E. or rest. Ice, compression, and elevation methods for quick pain relief.
However, there is always confusion as to which is better – heat or ice application.
According to Joe Gulotta, a chiropractor from New Jersey, both can be used, depending on what your ailment is. “Heat Therapy is perfect for muscle relaxation and increasing blood flow. Whereas, ice therapy is good for inflammation and short-term pain relief,” Gulotta wrote on his Instagram account.
Gulotta says both ice and heat play important roles in relieving muscle or joint pain, but each works on your body differently.

Where should you use ice?

Ice is more than just an analgesic. It is extremely helpful if your muscle or joint pain is associated with the swelling that typically accompanies an exercise-related overuse injury or arthritis.
Ice reduces swelling by constricting blood vessels and reducing circulation to the affected area. It lowers pain along with inflammation caused by injuries like sprains, strains, tendonitis, or bursitis. Icing also reduces long-term swelling and potentially shortens recovery time. Also, if you have had a new injury, within 24-48 hours applying ice on the affected area boosts quick recovery, by even stopping the blood flow.

How to apply ice?

According to Gulotta, there is no long-term timeline for icing. If desired, you can always apply ice immediately after the pain and swelling begins. Icing is not limited to an ice pack or frozen bag of peas. Different types of ice treatment cater to different types of pain, including:
  • Cold whirlpools allow for the submersion of large parts of the lower body
  • Cold wraps over the eyes, forehead, and temples to relieve the pain of migraine headaches
  • Bags of ice are often available in athletic settings for quick treatment following injury.

Where should heat pads be used?

According to Gulotta, if you are suffering from muscle tightness, apply a heat pad for quick and long-term relief. However, heat treatment is never done for a sudden injury like a collision or a vehicle accident. Heat pads are best used for the recovery process and to avoid causing further damage.
Heating a sore or injured muscle increases blood flow and metabolic activity which leads to a loosening of muscle tissue. Warming an injured area relaxes stiffness and relieves pain in aching joints, such as those affected by arthritis. Regularly heating before exercising or playing a game also helps avoid stiffness as warm-ups transition into performance by loosening up the muscles to avoid injury or soreness.

How does a heat pad work?

Heating pads are among the most common form of heat treatment, and can be used:
  • 15-20 minutes should be the target duration
  • Moist heat can be achieved by taking a warm shower or bath.
  • Heated whirlpools offer relief from joint pain or total-body soreness.
  • Placing a heat wrap around the neck may also reduce spasms that contribute to migraines or headaches.
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