A common question we often get at Wallace and Nilan is, “what is better for my injury, heat or ice?” Well here’s the lowdown folks:



What does it do?

Relaxes and loosens tissue

Stimulates healing of damaged tissues

Eases stiffness by making tissues more supple

What do I use it on?

Aching joints/chronic conditions

Cramping or spasms

In Physical Therapy, we usually put moist heat on FIRST to help loosen up your muscles before you stretch or do activity.



What does it do?

Reduce bleeding into tissue

Reduce swelling and inflammation

Reduce pain by numbing the area

What do I use it on?

Acute injuries like ankle sprains

After surgeries where swelling/inflammation is present, like a knee replacement

In Physical Therapy, we usually put ice on LAST to combat inflammation and minimize pain.


What are some precautions with using heat or ice? 

Don’t use heat on acute injuries where swelling is present since it can delay healing.  Don’t use EITHER when you have: decreased sensation (like neuropathy/diabetes), decreased circulation (like Raynaud’s), or if your skin is in poor condition or infected.  And don’t apply either directly to your skin to avoid burns!


Research is a bit inconclusive with these modalities and their direct impact on healing, but when used sensibly these are safe treatments for pain relief. Feel free to ask your Wallace and Nilan Physical Therapist for more information.


Thanks for tuning in on our weekly update with “The More You Know!”  Catch us next week to learn even more.