Here at Bodywell, we are often asked by clients whether they should use a heat pack or a
cold pack to manage their pain. The use of both heat and cold are common methods for
promoting recovery and managing pain, but what conditions should they be used for, and
which one is right for you?
Ice therapy is very commonly prescribed for people to use after an injury – usually
recommended to be used for the 24-48 hours after injury occurs. Why is this? The use of an
ice pack may reduce your pain by creating a numbing effect to the area, and it can help
reduce inflammation by narrowing the blood vessels & decreasing blood flow to the area,
which can also work to reduce bleeding in certain instances.
Although the anti-inflammatory effect for managing acute injuries sounds helpful,
inflammation is actually an important part of the natural healing process, and it is now
suggested to avoid using anti-inflammatory properties in the initial stage of injuries.
So when should you use ice?
Ice could be used for more chronic pain
conditions where acute healing doesn’t need
to occur, to reduce chronic inflammation and
provide numbing pain relief.
Some conditions include chronic
inflammatory conditions such as bursitis and
plantar fasciitis, inflammatory joint conditions
like gout and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as
headaches and migraines.
Consult your osteopath at Bodywell Healthcare or your primary healthcare provider if the
application of ice is recommended for you and your condition.
Our tips for using ice therapy safely!
Ice therapy is generally a safe form of management, but it can restrict healing in acute
injuries, and can also cause tissue damage if used for extended periods of time or if used
directly on the skin. When using a cold pack, cover it with a cloth or towel, apply for no
more than 10 minutes at a time, then remove and leave the area to warm up for the same
amount of time ice was applied for.
Heat therapy is generally advisable after the initial stages of injury, or in cases of more
chronic pain. Heat therapy can have a soothing effect which may help reduce pain levels,
relax tight muscles, and relieve aching joints (especially in the cold weather!) by increasing
blood flow. Although, as stated above, inflammation is a healthy and natural part of the
healing process, we don’t want to over stimulate the inflammatory process, so heat should
be avoided for the first few days after an acute injury.
Which conditions can benefit from heat therapy?
Heat therapy may help reduce pain associated with
postural strains and muscular tension, chronic pain
conditions such as fibromyalgia, joint pain such as
osteoarthritis, overuse injuries, menstrual cramps, and
Again, chat with your osteopath at Bodywell Healthcare
or your primary healthcare provider to find out if heat is
best for you and your condition.
Our tips for using heat therapy safely!
The use of heat can be a safe form of management, but
there is a risk of burns if the heated object becomes
overheated. It is important to ensure that the heated
object is not too hot and is safe and comfortable for skin
contact; check your skin at regular intervals for any signs of damage. Additionally, heat
should not be applied for extended periods of time even if it isn’t overheated, thus should
be avoid while sleeping, and you should avoid repeated applications of heat to the same
area without allowing a break for your skin.
Safety considerations for use of both heat and ice
People with poor circulation should be cautious when using either heat or cold therapy.
People with reduced temperature sensation, such as diabetics, may result in excessive
exposure to heat or cold which could then cause tissue damage to the area. Heat & cold
therapy should not be used over open wounds or infections.
We understand how tricky it can be to navigate the endless amount of information out
there for managing your pain, so please use this for educational purposes and consult your
osteopath or healthcare provider to discuss what is right for you.
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Or if you have any questions please call us on (03) 9717 1200 or email email@example.com