Heat or Ice? Which is good for pain relief?

Heat or Ice? Which is good for pain relief?

Do I need to apply heat or ice to an injured area? We are sure that you also get this question sometimes. They both have their own benefits. Generally both of these methods are safe to use so even if you go with the wrong method, it is a very lesser chance that you will harm yourself or make it more worse. But the real question is what method should we use and when to use? Let us help you in making this decision easier.

When to use ice?

Generally Ice is applied under this conditions.

The problem is on the surface of your body

Our body maintains a core temperature at an optimal level. The coolness of the ice applied to the skin does not penetrate very far. So it does not make much sense to apply ice to the injury which is more than a cm or two below the surface of your skin.

When Inflammation is Present

We use ice for the treatment of inflamed tissue. This method is used to reduce the swelling of the tissue and pain caused by it. Inflammation is present when you can see swelling, redness and the area of the body is warmer than normal.

Recent Injury

For the first 3 days icing an injury makes much more sense. Because after 3 days most injuries will pass the initial inflammatory stage.


  • Do not apply ice for too long instead apply it for short durations  say 10-15 minutes and then remove the ice pack and allow the surface area to get back to its normal temperature. By doing this you will avoid the risk of frostbite.
  • If there is any break in the skin then use some barrier between the ice and your skin. Use clean and dry material which is touching your skin.

Every now and then do check your ice packs. Reusable ice packs which are commercially available can make your life easier, but few of them sometimes have leakage problem. So inspect them regularly and make sure that it is in good condition.

When to use Heat?

Main goal of applying heat is also to reduce pain. Apply heat under this conditions.

For Chronic Condition

If you are dealing with a problem for a long time, it means it will be more chronic in nature and therefore chances of having any active inflammatory component is very less. Heat can be used in this case. There is an exception like if you are suffering from a systemic inflammatory condition like rheumatoid arthritis.

Achy Muscles

Muscles that aches without having any prior injuries may respond well to heat.


  • Apply mild heat to avoid the risk of skin burn.

Conclusion: Heat or Ice? Which is good for pain relief?

So, What should we apply Heat or Ice? There is no right choice or wrong choice here. The correct method may vary from individual to individual. You can’t say that if a particular method worked for an individual then it will also work for you.  Choosing the correct method completely depends on the situation and condition of the injury. Most importantly follow the method which your Physiotherapist or Doctor told you, they know your condition better than Google. And if you want to use this method at home for an emergency purpose then choose the method according to your symptoms and do visit a doctor.

Also Read: 3 Best Ways to prevent lower Back Pain


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  1. Very beautifully explained Dr. Vinayak.
    These methods will help us a lot to get relief from pain… Thank you so much 😇😇

    1. Thank You Ma’am for your kind words.

  2. Very much appreciated for educating the actual necessities about treatment. BEST WISHES TO Dr…VINAYAK JI…

    1. Thank you Mr Srikanth for your your kind words

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