45 Franklin Avenue, Nutley, NJ 07110

Should I Heat or Ice My Injury? Ask An Orthopedist

June 29, 2022

The orthopedist at Nutley Orthopaedic Group is a doctor who’s specially trained to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the entire musculoskeletal system, which comprises our joints, bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves. As you might imagine, we get lots of questions from our patients about how to stop the pain and speed healing of their injuries. 

Of all these questions, one of the most common is, “Should I use heat or ice?” It’s an understandable request, and we understand the confusion — especially with the proliferation of over-the-counter ointments, roll-ons, creams, balms and anti-inflammatories that claim to provide heat, cold, or both.

Here’s some of what we provide to help our patients answer that question:

Because cold temperatures slow the flow of blood, ice is generally recommended during the first 24 to 48 hours after an injury to reduce pain and swelling. Ice should not be applied directly to the skin; it’s recommended to wrap the ice in a thin towel. Use the ice for no more than 10 to 20 minutes at a time, depending on the thickness of the muscles and other soft tissue in the injured area. Applications can be repeated several times each day.

Heat increases the flow of blood, and therefore it’s the preferred treatment for muscle pain or stiffness. Applications of 15 to 20 minutes with a heating pad, or longer periods in a warm bath, can help reduce pain. The use of a heating pad before physical activity can also be beneficial.

Some aches and pains resulting from conditions like osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia may respond to either heat, cold or both. But never apply heat when there’s swelling or inflammation.

If you’re experiencing pain from an injury or condition that is not resolving through one of these methods, the orthopedist at Nutley Orthopaedic Group can help. We provide treatment options that relieve pain and promote healing for patients dealing with a wide range of complaints. Please contact us today to arrange a consultation.