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  • Writer's pictureHelen

Do I Use Ice or Heat?

Updated: Apr 25, 2019


There is always great debate and confusion amongst patients about whether they should be using ice, heat or both. There are a couple of simple rules with ice and heat to make the decision easier.

Generally as a rule if something is hot, red, swollen, therefore inflamed then cool it down. The theory I use with my clients is, “if you want to put out a fire don’t add more fuel to it. If something is already hot don’t make it hotter”. Use ice for acute injury or pain. It will depend on your physios preference ice can be used for anywhere for 7-10 days after initial injury.

When thinking about heat the general rule is, if the injury is chronic or the area is stiff, aching or tension is bought on by stress then heat the area. Heat can be soothing for aches and pains and can help to relieve and de-stress an area.

If you have physiotherapy treatment which involves manual therapy the there is a small chance of some inflammation being caused to the local area. Therefore it is recommended here at Choice Physio Ltd that directly after physiotherapy you would ice where has been treated at least three times for 15-20 minutes each time and leaving at least 40 minutes to one hour between ice packs.

NEVER put ice or heat directly on the skin. Always make sure you wrap your ice packs and heat packs in a towel. Make sure you feel the cold/heat but not to the point of it being freezing or burning.

Below are some guidelines for the use of ice and heat when it is safe or unsafe to use them:


Contraindications (AVOID)

  • DVT

  • Reporoductive organs

  • Haemorragic conditions

  • Poor local circulation

  • Damaged skin

  • Active TB

  • Malignancy

  • Recently radiated areas

  • Local skin disease


  • Active epiphysis

  • Cardiac failure

  • Pregnancy

  • Eyes

  • Anterior neck

  • Metal such as implants and staples

  • Topical irritation


Contraindications (AVOID)

  • DVT

  • Haemorragic conditions

  • Chronic wound

  • Hypersensitivity

  • Impaired circulation

  • Active TB


  • Damaged skin

  • Cardiac failure

  • High BP

  • Impaired sensation

  • Infection

We hope this helped you with your decision on when to use either ice or heat in relation to an injury. if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us here at Choice Physio Ltd.


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