At one point in our lives, we have all experienced some discomfort or pain. Heat and Ice are both easy and inexpensive options to achieve some pain relief. However, most people are unsure of which to use, or what provides the most benefit. 

So, which is better? As with most things musculoskeletal, there is no right or wrong answer! But generally speaking, ice is used for recent or more acute injuries, whereas heat is used for muscular and more chronic, long term conditions.

Acute Injuries

If you’ve experienced a new injury or even a flare up of an existing injury ice is the way to go. Ice helps minimise swelling and the chill may help to constrict blood vessels. This in turn can numb the pain and acts like an analgesic or pain reliever. Acute timeframes can vary from a few days to up to three weeks. 

Chronic Injuries

Chronic conditions are typically those that have lingered for three or more months. Heat has the opposite effect to ice; it can help to promote more blood flow to the area by encouraging blood vessels to open.  This increase in blood flow carries with it healing nutrients like oxygen to help speed up recovery. Heat is also great for helping relax and loosen the surrounding tissues – plus it feels much better than applying ice!


  1. Everyone is different and their own healing timeframes will differ. 
  2. If you’re sensitive to cold the ice may seem uncomfortable or painful to apply but is still working to reduce swelling.
  3. Heat may feel warm and preferable to apply to an injury however it might exacerbate the swelling and pain.
  4. Make sure to apply heat/ice safely. Applying for 10-20mins at a time with at least a 10-minute break in between applications is recommended. Make sure to use a layer between the heat/ice and the skin to avoid any burns or harm. 
  5. It is important to note that these options are only for temporary relief. If you are experiencing pain or discomfort, you should see your health professional for the appropriate management. 

Kamal Pakenham OsteopathyIt might be difficult for you to assess what stage of tissue healing your injury has reached. As your Osteopath, we will be able to help assess and manage your condition. You can make an appointment at Pakenham Osteopathy. Click here to book online or call us on 5941-4157.

You can email me directly at if you have any questions. Thanks for reading!