Ice Pack or Heating Pad?


You hurt yourself trying to become the “new you” for 2019. Your body wasn’t ready to go from winter hibernation to the track team and now your knee is killing you. It’s not bad enough to warrant a doctor visit, so what do you do? Does your hurt knee need heat or ice?

About three times a week a client will ask me should they use an ice pack at home. While I am not a doctor and can’t give medical advice, I tell them what I would do in that situation. If its inflamed and swollen, I use ice. If it is a sore muscle, I use heat.

My self-care regimen with heat and ice is backed up by some research and science. According to this article by the Mayo Clinic

 “Cold can numb pain by causing blood vessels to constrict, which helps reduce swelling. That's why, when you experience an injury — whether it's a bee sting or a sprained ankle — icing is often a good first choice. You can use an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables, or you can submerge the affected area in a container of ice water.

Heat, on the other hand, is a muscle relaxer. Heat helps loosen tense muscles, which contributes to pain relief. Heat also increases blood flow to an injury, which can help promote healing. Sources of heat can be a heating pad or a warm bath.”

Besides my knowledge of the body, heat is one of the reasons massages feel so nice. I warm up the muscles with my hands and allow the blood to flow. And heat is also one of the reasons you should not get a massage when you have a fresh injury.

How to know if your dealing with inflammation-

Inflammation is one of the body’s responses to injury. Is your knee red, swollen, hot, painful, has a loss of function? That is all the classics signs of inflammation.


Arthritis, for example, is an inflammatory disease. You can tell this by the suffix. The word ending -itis means inflammatory. There are many types of arthritis, but the basic meaning is inflammation of the joint. So, if you can figure out your problem is inflammatory, you can pick the best self-care technique for you. And I am sure your doctor has already told you how to treat it at home, you should always do what they say.

I also found this great chart from Cleveland Clinic on when to use heat and ice. This chart breaks it down by problem and gives you a solution. This is a limited part of the chart but it is definitely giving good examples to learn from. You can see the whole chart here.

3 chart.PNG

Do you think you have the hang of it? Heat on muscle soreness and Ice on inflammation. So, you hurt your knee running like a high school track star. Your knee is red and hurts to walk on, what do you do?


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