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  • Writer's pictureBrian Buckle

How Do I Know When To Use Ice Or Heat for Injuries?

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

To make an informed decision, the first question we need to answer is, “How recent was the injury?” If the injury occurred in the last 72 hours then your answer would be ice. Once the injury is more than 3 days old you may be better off either with heat or alternating ice and heat (5 minutes of each for a total of 30 minutes). If the injury was

months, or the symptoms have been with you a long time, then the answer would be heat.

If there is swelling than the answer is almost always ice, since heat can cause swelling to worsen. In general, arthritis, aches and stiffness usually feel better with heat. I find that your body will tell you what to use. If ice doesn’t help you feel better, than try heat, and vice versa.

Proper use of ice is a flexible gel pack applied for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, as often as possible. You can use a bag of frozen peas or a bag of ice and water, placed directly on the area of concern. A thin towel on the skin can help protect from frost bite. You might

also try ice massage with an ice cube. Make sure to keep the ice cube moving and don't leave it on the skin for more than 2 minutes or you risk damaging the skin. .

If you get injured, take care of yourself and don't ignore what your body is telling you. If the pain and swelling last for more than 2-3 days, consult a specialist. Getting immediate care and keeping up the icing can mean the difference between days of recovery or months or rehabilitation.

Yours in Health,

Dr. Rick

Dr. Rick Schlussel is a Chiropractor and Applied Kinesiologist providing preventive health care, treatment for pain and injuries, holistic health assessments and a variety of natural therapies. He can be reached at Presence Wellness Center and Spa at 530-889-0388 or by email at

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