« Health & Fitness

Are you using ice and heat correctly?

by Nikki Montgomery

By Dhenning2005, aka Dave Henning (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


If you're nursing an injury you've probably been told at some point to use ice and/or heat. Are you using ice and heat correctly? Draeger Chiropractic and Laser Center gave me this helpful magnet that explains how to use ice and heat.

ICE: Acute, New Injuries

  • Use for the first 48 hours after an injury, then switch to contrast therapy
  • For areas that are red, swollen, or inflamed
  • Reduces swelling, relieves pain
  • 20 minutes per hour max
  • Never put plastic ice packs against your skin. Wrap it in a damp towel.
  • If unsure, ice is always safe

HEAT: Stiff, Old Injuries

  • Softens up scar tissue
  • Brings new blood to the area
  • 20 minutes per hour max
  • Moist heat is better than dry heat because it penetrates deeper
  • Use a microwave rice bag or a hot water bottle wrapped in a wet towel
  • Never sleep with a heating pad. It can cause blood to pool and actually speed up arthritic changes

CONTRAST: After 48 hours

  • 5 minutes ice, 10 minutes heat, 5 minutes ice
  • Always 20 minutes per hour max
  • Always finish with ice
  • Heat brings blood flow to the area. If you do not finish with ice, you could have increased stiffness and swelling.