runner clutching knee in pain

Ice or Heat for Injuries? It Depends.

We’ve seen ice used for injuries during sports events for much of our lives. Ice has been the traditional go-to for almost as long as I can remember. But ice is not always the best answer for your injury as you go through the healing process. Sometimes heat is better. Sometimes neither heat nor ice is the answer. Sometimes it's best to use both. 


The question you need to ask yourself (or better yet, your chiropractor, sports medicine doctor, or physical therapist) is, “Will ice help me or hurt me?” The answer depends on the cause of your pain and the best course of treatment for your specific circumstances.


Pain and discomfort from a chronic condition? Use heat.

Using heat may help relax muscles. Heat can ease discomfort for cramping. Arthritic/aching joints and tight backs can also benefit from applying heat.


How does heat help soft tissue injuries?

Heat applied to an injured area can support the healing process. It helps reduce pain, relax the muscles, and improve the flexibility of scarring.


Use ice for acute injuries, right? Maybe, maybe not.

For years the practice has been to treat injuries with ice. You may know the acronym RICE — Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.


More recent studies have shown the opposite to be true. Ice can actually delay healing. It can also increase swelling, and cause more damage.


Move away from RICE, and turn towards PEACE & LOVE.

In April 2019, two British physical therapists proposed another acronym in the British Journal of Sports Medicine: PEACE. That stands for Protect, Elevate, Avoid anti-inflammatory modalities, Compress, and Educate. They also prescribed LOVE: Load, Optimism, Vascularization, Exercise. At Golden Chiropractic we align with this philosophy for acute injury treatment as well.


You need to treat swelling and inflammation differently.

Immediate pain and swelling are your body's signals to stop using the injured part so that you don't cause further damage. Ice MIGHT be great for easing your pain and swelling in the beginning, but it's not great for supporting your body's natural healing process over time.


Inflammation on the other hand, is actually part of the healing process, so it's beneficial to work with inflammation instead of trying to stop it. Heat may be the better choice to encourage healing, IF it’s actually helpful in your specific circumstances.


So when should you use ice, and when should you use heat?

This is the part where I tell you to see a healthcare professional. If you find yourself with an acute injury, it’s best to get set up with a healing protocol that will NOT further damage your tissues.


We serve many athletes in our office. We also see people injured in car accidents. No matter the cause of your acute injury, your instinct may be to ice it. While this will certainly reduce your pain, it may not benefit you over time. We suggest calling our office to ask what to do for your pain until you can get in to see us.


Make an online appointment, and our Aptos chiropractors will figure out what you need to get back into life as soon as possible.


Contact Information

 9053 Soquel Dr A
Aptos, CA 95003


(831) 661-5577
 (831) 851-3502

Opening Hours

Monday Closed

Tuesday 10:00 AM - 06:00 PM

Wednesday 10:00 AM - 06:00 PM

Thursday 10:00 AM - 06:00 PM

Friday 09:00 PM - 04:00 PM

Saturday 09:00 AM - 01:00 PM

Sunday Closed

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