Ice Vs Heat

Top tip

The best advise we can offer is to try both ice and heat separately to see which works best for you.

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Are you confused as to whether you should be using ice or heat for your pain or injury? Common questions such as how long should I be using it for? How frequently should I be using it? What is the best form of ice and heat to use?

Find out all the answers to these questions. If your question is not answered, please email Optimal Osteopathy at:

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During an acute injury (ICE)

When: The first 1-3 days of your injury.

How long: 20 minutes maximum. You can repeat up to 10 times in a 24 hour period.

Why: Reduces pain, inflammation and swelling.

Best way: Frozen gel packs. Next best is a frozen bag of peas wrapped in a damp tea towel.

DO NOT: Apply ice directly to the skin as it will cause an ice burn.

During an acute injury (HEAT)

When: Anytime after the 3 day period (when initial swelling has reduced).

How long: No specific set time. Can keep on as long as needed.

Why: Increases blood flow to the injured area which promotes the healing cycle. Reduces pain and stiffness.

Best way: Either Heat gel packs or microwavable wheat packs. Next best is a hot water bottle.

DO NOT: Apply heat therapy if you have been diagnosed with Diabetes or are on blood thinning medication (for example; Warfarin).


Persistent pain (More than 3 months).

There are two very important factors in this category of pain.

1- There is no definitive answer as to whether ice or heat is the best option. The best option is to utilise a mixture of the two. Try to apply ice for a few minutes and then heat straight after for a few minutes. This will give you benefits of both.

2- If you are having to rely on painkillers or heat/ice therapy to manage your pain it is important to speak to the professionals. Firstly, drop base with your GP. After, book an appointment with your local Osteopath to see if we can help.

The NICE Guidelines suggest that Osteopaths are a part of the leading interventions in the management of back and neck pain.

Ice & Heat can only go so far. Get to the root of the problem.   What Osteopaths Treat