Ice or heat for injuries?

Thai Pham
  ·  December 01, 2017

Ice packs and heating pads are commonly used for conditions from pulled muscles to joint swelling. There’s sometimes confusions as to which method is effective for which conditions. Using the wrong type of treatment could certainly slow down your recovery. Here's what to do and what to avoid.


Ice swolen joints like knees, ankles, elbows. Heat strained muscles like back, calf. Do not use icepacks or heating pads:

  • Area of the skin with poor circulation.
  • Area of the skin with infection.
  • Area of the skin with poor sensation to heat or cold.


Heating increases blood flow to the tissues in that area. This helps to soothe pulled muscles, muscles in spasms, and aching muscles. Specific area includes low back, upper back, thigh, and calf.


Do not apply a frozen item directly to skin. Applying ice packs / wraps to the injured joints as well as keeping the affected joint elevated will help reduce the swelling. Do not use the ice treatment for more than 20 minutes at a time. Another use for ice / cold wrap is to reduce itching. If you have a skin area that’s itchy, applying a cold wrap to affected area can help with the itching.

The information contained herein should not be used during any medical emergency, nor for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A physician licensed for the diagnosis and treatment of each and every medical condition should be consulted.