Overview: Go right to your Pain Symptoms:
Sometimes when faced with sudden muscle pain, you feel caught off guard and don’t know how to react: Ice or Heat for Muscle Pain, what is the right choice? You don’t know whether you need ice or heat for muscle pain to relieve the symptoms. But remember that it happens to everyone. Don’t worry, and don’t panic! Many people are indeed confused and troubled because they know that if they apply the wrong kind of treatment to the pain area, it will make the symptoms even worse.
To help you in these moments of sudden distress and not leave you alone, of when to use Ice or Heat for Muscle Pain, we will tell you some simple, low-cost but certainly effective recipes that will help you react quickly, to take matters into your own hands, calming your muscle pain appropriately.
Of course, you might already know that the right treatment depends on the type of pain. The cold, the pain-relieving ally par excellence, has an instant analgesic action. In medical terms, we call it the cryotherapy. The cold acts on cells of the skin, and one has recourse to this therapy for the ice to alleviate the pains of the articulations, tendons, or muscles.
On the other hand, the objective of heat is to soothe the pain as quickly as possible, to create a feeling of well-being, and to prevent the formation of an oedema. The heat is suitable for pain that occurs after the effort, such as cramps, torticollis, and more.
In some cases, alternating heat and cold can help, as it will greatly increase blood flow to the injury site.
General tips for hot and cold therapy for muscle pain
Here are some Ice or Heat for Muscle Pain tips to use when applying ice to the painful area:
- You can apply a cold compress to the inflamed area for twenty minutes, but this may vary depending on the nature of the inflammation.
- Also, massage the painful area with an ice cube or an ice pack using circular movements 2 to 5 times a day for a maximum of 5 minutes. Make sure that you do not exceed the maximum time and become a victim of an ice burn. You can apply the ice directly to your skin, as long as it does not stay in the same place (constantly moving the ice cube is the key here!)
Is cold therapy effective for inflammation?
The cold helps to slow down the blood and lymphatic flow in the icy area. Its action helps to reduce the efficiency of the cells that are at the origin of the inflammatory response. The inflammation is thus reduced as a result.
Cold is a perfect natural pain reliever and should be looked at in this way. It has the power to slow down or even stop the activity of the nerves that transmit pain to the brain.
Cold is more of an analgesic, so it is not real medicine. In other words, icing does not cure the underlying pain symptoms. It should be used as if it were a pain medication such as Aspirin.
Heat therapy for pain overview
Applying heat to an irritated area will dilate blood vessels, improve blood circulation, and allow bruised and tightened muscles to relax. Good blood circulation can help remove the concentration of lactic acid waste following certain types of exercise. On a psychological level, warmth is reassuring, which can increase its analgesic virtues.
In general, hot thermotherapy works more effectively than ice to treat chronic muscle pain or painful joints caused by arthritis. Heat is effective in soothing osteoarthritis, sprains and strains, and tendonitis. It alleviates pain or cramping related to neck or back injuries, including the lower back. Applied to the neck, heat can reduce contractures that lead to headaches, and it helps to warm up stiff muscles before physical activity.
COLD OR HEAT FOR SORE MUSCLES?
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Symptoms: neck and shoulder stiffness, muscle pain, swelling, bruising, reduced mobility of the affected limb, shooting pain, bruising
It is all well and good to be careful and prevent sore muscles, but it often happens, especially if you practice sports frequently and overdo it. Are you a victim of elongation? Of course, rest is highly recommended, but above all, avoid massaging the damaged muscle.
Should you apply COLD OR HEAT FOR SORE MUSCLES?
The most effective and efficient way to treat muscular elongation is to apply a bag of ice to the affected area within the hour. The cold will cause the blood vessels to constrict, thus limiting the blood flow to the affected area. In this way, you will be able to reduce inflammation and swelling and soothe the pain.
- Wrap a small amount of ice cubes in a thin towel.
- Put the ice on the sore or torn muscles for about 15 minutes. You can repeat this several times a day.
OUR RECOMMENDATION: Of course, you need to rest, and sometimes immobilization for a couple of days is unavoidable. Applying ice frequently throughout the day helps to reduce inflammation and the associated pain.
HEAT OR ICE FOR ARTHRITIC KNEES?
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Symptoms: Swelling, osteoarthritic deformity, pain, difficulty moving, functional discomfort such as difficulty descending stairs, accompanied by pain, deformities: X-knee, bowed legs
Are your knee’s a little bit swollen, feel stiffness, and does it hurt terribly? It might be that you are suffering from osteoarthritis (arthritic knee) that causes knee inflammation. How do you react in such a case? Will we resort to cold therapy, cryotherapy as it is called in more scientific jargon, or will we use heat?
Should you apply HEAT OR ICE FOR ARTHRITIC KNEES?
- In the case of knee osteoarthritis, it is recommended to use cold as it has anti-inflammatory properties to battle the pain. Ice is perfect for soothing your suffering, with no side effects. All you have to do is to apply an ice pack for knee swelling three times a day for 15 minutes.
- But please be careful, do not put the ice cubes directly on your knee, instead, put them in a cloth to avoid skin irritation.
But, if your knee hurts, and it is not hot, red, or swollen, you can resort to heat therapy:
Ok, now you may wonder why the sudden switch? In fact, heat stimulates blood circulation and has a relaxing effect that causes muscles to relax and develops elasticity in the tissues. All this is closely related to what is called vasodilatation. Warmth also reduces joint stiffness, muscle contractures, and pain.
The treatment is very simple: you can apply a warm compress to your knee for a quarter of an hour, three times a day. Be careful and avoid too much heat.
OUR RECOMMENDATION: Use heat therapy to ease pain and support muscle relaxation. On the other hand, cold therapy eases inflammation and swelling, especially after exercise or your physical training routine.
HEAT OR ICE FOR MUSCLE STRAIN
Symptoms: Difficulty moving the joint, rapid swelling, bruising, cracking, tearing sensation
A muscle sprain, which usually affects the ankles, is a small distension of the ligaments in the joint. This is called a mild sprain or tendon. It could develop into some more serious, leading to the rupture of the entire ligament or just a few fibers depending on the severity. No doubt, the pain is extremely excruciating.
Should you use heat or ice for the muscle strain?
We advise you to act quickly by applying cold. Simply put an ice pack on the painful area, but avoid applying it directly on the skin. In other words, cover your knee with a piece of cloth first. You should also not leave the ice pack on the painful area for too long as it might burn the skin. For example, wrap the ice pack in a cloth and leave on for a maximum of 10 minutes, then stop doing it before starting again. The cold slows down the intumescence and reduces the size of any bruising.
For a more serious muscle sprain, you should be examined by a health care professional for further treatment.
ICE OR HEAT FOR NECK PAIN (STIFF NECK)?
Symptoms: Muscle stiffness mostly at the neck, difficulty moving the head, spasms, headache
In cases of torticollis, whiplash, aches, neck pain, or neck and shoulder stiffness, heat therapy is one of the proven solutions. Heat therapy will dilate the vessels and therefore help to increase blood flow. This action will relax the muscles, reduce pain, and facilitate movement.
Should you apply ICE OR HEAT FOR NECK PAIN?
- We recommend that you take a hot bath between 33 and 37.7 degrees Celsius and moisten the affected area with warm water.
- You can use different heating products such as warm compresses, hot water bottles, or a Tiger Balm patch. The patches can be applied for up to 8 hours, while it is most suitable for during work or sleep.
For the first 24 hour treatment (only if swollen):
According to several specialists in the field, cold treatment is also effective for the first 24 hours if swelling is visible. You can place ice cubes, enclosed in a plastic bag or a soft cooling gel pillow on the skin.
Last but not least, a less expensive trick from grandma: Place a bag of frozen green peas on the pain area. It takes the shape of your body beautifully, and therefore you can put it directly on the skin.
HEAT OR COLD FOR BACK PAIN
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Symptoms: Numbness in the legs or arms, tingling, pain in the cervical area, feeling weak, pain that radiates to the head or legs, stiffness in the spine
Of course, the benefits of hot and cold differ from person to person. For most people, the perfect solution to back pain is to alternate heat. Why use heat over cold? It’s because heat therapy soothes the back’s muscle tissue. As heat releases the contracted muscles, it will consequently reduce the pain.
Thanks to its physiological action, heat dilates the blood vessels: toxins are expelled quickly, which improves the passage of oxygen.
Should you apply HEAT OR COLD FOR BACK PAIN?
For regular back pain (no traumatic), apply a hot water bottle, a warm cloth, or a Tiger Balm back pain patch emitting heat on the areas you feel pain. You can also use a heating pad, which will help to relax the muscles as well.
Use cold therapy for traumatic back pain
The action of cold on the muscles is entirely different from that of heat. Cold mainly helps to reduce inflammation, swelling, and bruises. It calms traumatic back pain; in other words, cold is useful during a trauma, for example, a fall or shock.
The cold makes it possible to contract the blood vessels, and this vasoconstriction will cause a desensitization of the painful part, thus a decrease in suffering. It will prevent the formation of oedema and slows down the formation of the enzymes that cause inflammation. Therefore, cover the ice in a cloth and apply on the pain areas to reduce inflammation.
In summary, alternating between cold and warm could undoubtedly reduce the severity of back pain. Still, we advise you to start by applying the cold first in case of trauma not to exacerbate the inflammation. Regular back pain should always be treated by heat.
HEAT OR COLD FOR TENDONITIS
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Symptoms: throbbing pain with movement, swelling of the joint, tingling, numbness, difficulty performing specific actions.
Tendinitis, whether in the elbow, shoulder, hip, or other areas, is a problem that affects many people, and its number is increasing with today’s lifestyle. It is more common in individuals over the age of forty and in athletes.
Should you apply HEAT OR COLD FOR TENDONITIS?
In general, heat is used for chronic injuries and cold for inflammation, swelling, and pain.
The first three days of a new injury (Cold Therapy)
If the injury is new, icing is the perfect solution, especially during the first three days. The cold ankyloses the sore part and causes the blood vessels to constrict, which in turn reduces the swelling.
Simple treatment: Place a pack of ice on the pain areas around for 15 to 20 minutes. Afterward, repeat every four to six hours, but don’t forget to place a towel between the ice cubes and the skin.
In most situations, the treatment is not difficult, and you can do it on your own at home. Rest, icing, and using anti-inflammatory pain creams, the tendonitis will fade within a few weeks.
Please remember to stop the excessive activity that caused the tendonitis triggering the pain, as otherwise, the healing process extends.
AFTER the first three days of a new injury (Hot Therapy)
Once the shock of the new injury resides, a hot therapy is recommended. As heat relaxes muscles and tendons, it improves surface blood circulation and allows better healing. Most importantly, rest the joints long enough to prevent tendonitis from becoming chronic.
Put a warm but not necessarily burning hot water bottle (cover it with a towel to avoid burning) on the painful area. Please leave it in place for 10 minutes and repeat the action three times a day. As an alternative, you can also use the Counterpain cream to applying warmness to the area.
HOT OR COLD FOR GOUT
Symptoms: Redness and swelling of the joints, fever, chills, sharp pains
Gout is a common type of arthritis that can cause considerable pain, intumescence, and stiffness in a joint. It usually affects the big toe joint at the foot. Attacks of gout may appear and continue to return over time, gradually deteriorating the inflamed tissue in the area, causing excruciating pain.
It is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis in men, and although it is more likely to affect men, women become more sensitive to it after menopause.
Should you apply HOT OR COLD FOR GOUT?
Applying heat may temporarily relieve pain and stiffness by relaxing bruised muscles and stimulating blood flow to the affected area. However, it has been suggested that heat may aggravate symptoms when the joint is already irritated.
Cold may cause blood vessels to contract and stop the joint’s nerve impulses, which will help numb the painful area. The use of an ice pack or cold towel reduces inflammation and would, therefore, be the appropriate solution when the joint is inflamed.
HOT OR COLD FOR OSTEOARTHRITIS (CERVICAL)
Symptoms: dull and intense pain (sometimes sharp and strong with activity), swelling and stiffness in the joints, loss of joint flexibility, pain followed by stiffness in the neck and back
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease that affects the joints of knees, thumbs, hips, and hands. It causes pain during the whole day and is not followed by morning stiffness.
Should you apply HOT OR COLD FOR OSTEOARTHRITIS (CERVICAL)?
Heat or cold therapy for osteoarthritis pain depends on the state of inflammation of the joints.
For cervical osteoarthritis, you can apply either heat or cold to the cervical area, which may ease the pain and symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Generally speaking, you can use heat if the irritation is not very inflamed. On the other hand, in case of acute rubefaction (inflammation), cold is recommended for its anti-inflammatory virtues (by vasoconstriction) to ease the swelling.
Cold Therapy: Get ice cubes and gently apply to the affected area for around 10 minutes, three times a day.
Hot Therapy: Place a hot water bottle on the joint areas. As an alternative, there are many good OTC warming pain relief creams on the market. The heat neutralizes the pain by improving blood circulation (through vasodilation), supplies the cells with oxygen and nutrients, and helps repair the tissue.
Either way, if you apply hot or cold, it sends a trigger message to the nervous system telling to ease the suffering.
HEAT OR COLD FOR JOINT PAIN
Symptoms: Pain, swelling, joint inflammation, redness, rash, fever, eye pain, canker sores onset
If you’re facing joint pain and you don’t know what to do, please continue reading. Cold is recommended in cases of irritation, sprains, strains, contusions or bruises, muscle tears, and osteoarthritis.
Cold can operate on different levels:
- It has an analgesic effect, and consequently, it has the power to slow down the speed of the influx of nerve fibers.
- Also, cold has an anti-inflammatory effect so that it may reduce the formation of pro-inflammatory cytokines
- Cold is an edema or a hematoma and can decrease the blood flow and the evolution of a bruise after an impact.
Should you apply HEAT OR COLD FOR JOINT PAIN?
You can apply ice cubes wrapped in a cloth or a sachet with frozen peas to the sore area. Leave it on for a maximum of twenty to thirty minutes.
HEAT OR COLD FOR SHOULDER PAIN
Symptoms: Pain in the upper shoulder and back of the head area, pain at the forehead. Also in the upper back, dizziness, ringing in the ears, slightly blurred vision
Shoulder pain is so disabling that you don’t know what to do. You have heard about the virtues of hot and cold, but you don’t know which saint to devote yourself to, and above all, you are afraid of doing it wrong.
Should you apply HEAT OR COLD FOR SHOULDER PAIN?
In the case of shoulder pain, heat is recommended, but it is necessary to act quickly. You can heat the painful area with a hairdryer, using one of the heat plaster, or a hot water bottle. You can take a hot bath, as this will relieve your shoulder pain as well.
In conclusion, heat can effectively help to alleviate pain for aching muscles in the shoulder area.
HEAT OR COLD FOR MUSCLE PAIN
A local application of heat is beneficial when, for example, muscular pain, torticollis, neck pain, aches, and pains are involved. The heat therapy will dilate the blood vessels and stimulate blood flow. As a result, it will relax the muscles, reduce pain, and make movements more fluid.
Should you apply HEAT OR COLD FOR MUSCLE PAIN?
A warm bath with Epsom salt, applying a hot water bottle, or using the warming version of Tiger Balm Red 30g is the best solution to battle and relieve muscle pain in no time.
TRAUMATIC PAIN COLD OR WARM
Traumatic pain caused by any kind of accident injury: cold is the right answer. If the pain is the result of an edema, bruise, or hematoma, it would be more appropriate to put a Tiger Balm plaster cool, a cold towel, or ice on your skin.
Should you apply for TRAUMATIC PAIN COLD OR WARM?
Slip the ice cubes into a plastic bag, cover it with a towel so that the action of the cold does not burn your skin. This treatment reduces swelling and slows down the inflammatory reaction. Cold therapy is also effective when you have a muscle strain injury caused by accident.
HEAT OR COLD FOR TORN LIGAMENT
Symptoms: stabbing pain of the ligaments with a direct swelling of the area, impossible to move
A torn ligament occurs when the joints are twisted jerkily. You can often hear cracking of the ligaments. Furthermore, a blue/green discoloration can be seen in the area of the tear. Rapid swelling of the joints is immediately visible.
Should you apply HEAT OR COLD FOR TORN LIGAMENT?
The area should rest immediately, and the use of cold for the torn ligament is necessary. Place either an ice bag or ice cubes wrapped in a bag on the affected painful area for about 10 to 15 minutes. Afterward, a rest period of 20 to 30 minutes should be taken not to over cool the muscle fibers. Over the following days of treatment, an anti-inflammatory pain ointment should also be applied to support the healing process.
HEAT OR ICE FOR LEG CRAMPS (CALF)
Leg cramps can have different causes. Either the pain is caused by over-straining, e.g., during sport, or there is an underlying problem with the veins. Both are treated very differently, and not always does ice help to ease leg cramps:
For strain of muscles: Here, the cooling treatment is applied, and a cold compress for the leg (calf) or cooling pain ointments are recommended. The leg should be elevated and kept still.
For sore muscles/veins/varicose veins: Heat therapy is useful as it increases the blood supply to the muscles and has a calming effect. A warm wrap or heat pads help miracles here. To summarize, we can say that heat is good for leg cramps.
HEAT OR COLD FOR MUSCLE SPASM
Does heat help muscle spasm? To answer the question: not always!
Ice is recommended for muscle spasm and strains in the first two days. Very often, swelling of the tissue does occur. The swelling needs to subside first, for you to switch over to treat the injury by heat.
During the first two days after the spasm: Ice treatment with cold compresses, ice packs, or cooling pain ointments is recommended to reduce the pain and swelling.
After two days of the spasm: Now, you should switch to a heat treatment so that the irritated muscle tissue can regenerate itself through warmness. You can use heating Tiger Balm ointment, warm compresses (max. 15 minutes), or a warming Tiger Balm patch. Please note that too much heat is not advisable as it could counteract and harm the tissue. Please treat the affected pain areas 3 – 4 times a day for a maximum of 10-15 minutes.
HEAT OR ICE FOR MUSCLE CRAMPS (SPRAINS)
Is heat good for muscle cramps? To answer the question: not always!
Ice is recommended for muscle cramps and strains in the first two days. Very often, swelling of the tissue does occur. The swelling needs to subside first, for you to switch over to treat the injury by heat.
During the first two days after the cramp: Ice treatment with cold compresses, ice packs, or cooling pain ointments is recommended to reduce the pain and swelling.
After two days of the cramp: Now, you should switch to a heat treatment so that the irritated muscle tissue can regenerate itself through warmness. You can use heating ointments, warm compresses (max. 15 minutes), or heat plasters. Please note that too much heat is not advisable as it could counteract and harm the tissue. Please treat the affected pain areas 3 – 4 times a day for a maximum of 10-15 minutes.
HEAT OR COLD FOR SWELLING
Symptoms: stabbing pain, occasional swelling, movement restricted in the area due to pain, cramped muscle tissue
Swelling is mainly caused by injury due to trauma or accidents. Sometimes even a wrong move and the area can become swollen. The cold will reduce swelling and, therefore, should be the preferred treatment application. The coolness slows down the tissue’s intumescence and thus reduces the size of the swelling over time.
We advise you to act quickly by applying cold right away. Place an ice pad on the painful area, but avoid placing the pad directly on the skin. First, cover with a cloth and then put the ice pack on it.
You should only apply this cooling effect for a maximum of 8 to 10 minutes, but please do not apply it for too long as it may cause cold burns to the skin. Of course, you can also use alternative ice spray or cooling balms such as the Tiger Balm white 30g.
USE HOT OR COLD ON BRUISE
Cold is an analgesic, so it is very suitable to reduce bruising right after the indecent. It is important to remember that you should NEVER use hot on a bruise, as this will only make the symptoms worse. Please be careful with cooling treatment as too much cold is also counterproductive.
Should you USE HOT OR COLD ON BRUISE?
Use cold on bruises: An ice pack or ice cube is ideal and gently apply it to the affected area three times a day for about 10 minutes. Cooling balms such as the Counterpain Cool are also very helpful here.
ICE OR HEAT FOR INFLAMMATION
Inflammation is usually caused by over-straining and by continually performing the same activities at work. You have to differentiate between whether you only suffer from normal muscle pain or inflammatory, chronic pain. Physiotherapy should, of course, be considered as a later treatment step once chronic pain is diagnosed.
Cold helps to slow down the blood and lymph flow in the pain area. Its action reduces the efficiency of the cells at the origin of the inflammatory reaction. The inflammation is thus reduced.
Should you apply ICE OR HEAT FOR INFLAMMATION
Cool the inflammation using an ice pack or a cooling, anti-inflammatory pain ointment. This successfully slows down the inflammatory reaction of the tissue.
HEAT OR ICE FOR BURSITIS
Symptoms: light to strong pulling in the joint, restriction of the range of motion, pain in the joint area during movement
Inflammation of the bursae occurs due to wear and tear of the joint area’s tendons and muscles. The bursa is the so-called oil of the joint, which takes over the bones’ painless friction. However, if the bursae are over-strained, painful inflammation in this area occurs.
Should you apply HEAT OR ICE FOR BURSITIS
In the case of bursitis, using ice is essential as it has an anti-inflammatory effect. This method has proven to be effective. It is advisable to immobilize the affected joints to prevent chronic progression.