Heat or Ice – What should I use?

One of the most commonly asked questions in our clinic is should I use ice or heat?

Obviously both these treatments have different applications, there is no simple answer as various tissues of the body respond in differently and as human beings we also respond in different ways; however here are some guidelines which can be applied to most situations.


Most clinical studies report that the use of cryotherapy (cold/ice) has a positive effect on reducing painful symptoms and assists in the recovery of various injuries by means of reducing inflammation. As a general rule of thumb, ice or cold therapies should be used within the first 48 hours of sustaining an acute injury.

The length of application of the ice can vary for different areas – the thicker the area the longer the cold takes to penetrate. As a guide; Knees – 15mins, thigh region (quadriceps or hamstrings) – 20 mins, ankles- 10 mins. Initially you will feel a cold, burning sensation, which within 3-5 minutes should fade to an ache and then slight numbness, once this occurs remove the ice and repeat in 1-2 hours.

Remember, do not apply ice directly to the skin; cover the ice or ice bag with a damp face washer or tea towel.


Heat therapy is mainly used in situations where the source of the problem in NOT inflammation such as osteoarthritis, tight muscles and fibromyalgia. Heat will often relieve joint stiffness and can reduce muscle spams and pain.

Use your wheat bag (heated in the microwave for 2-3 minutes) or hot water bottle wrapped in a tea towel. These sources of heat often stay warm for about 20 minutes, repeat as required.

If you are unsure or have any further questions please contact one of our helpful Practitioners. 9876 5815


This blog provides gen­eral infor­ma­tion and dis­cus­sion about med­i­cine, health and related sub­jects.  The words and other con­tent pro­vided in this blog, and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended and should not be con­strued as med­ical advice. If the reader or any other per­son has a med­ical con­cern, he or she should con­sult with an appropriately qualified physi­cian or other allied health care practitioner.

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