Press "Enter" to skip to content

Ice, Ice Baby…or Heat???


As I sit here thinking about what fitness topic to write about today, I am bothered by my right hand.  My fingers are swollen from them being stepped on during my last soccer game where I was the goalkeeper.  That was two weeks ago and I haven’t really been icing it or giving it much of a break.  Then I thought…hmmm…when should I ice and when should I apply heat?  I bet I am not the only person who has this question.

So I did some research and found this great article over at UnityPoint Health.  I figured I would pull the couple of tidbits out of the article for you and link to their infographic to help you and me remember when to ice versus when to heat.

So, When Do You Ice???

Icing an injury is best done when the new injury happens.  Most often is the case that a new injury comes with lots of swelling and pain.  Whenever you injure yourself, inflammation occurs.  And the best way to put out that flame in inflammation is with water…of the frozen type.  Use ice on new injuries and acute pain.  Personally, I have found that icing within the first few days of an injury usually takes care of the swelling.

Ice for 20 minutes at a time with about an hour in between each ice session.  Never put the ice directly on your skin.  Ice in a baggie, a wet towel you placed in the freeze for 15 minutes, or a bag of vegetables will get the job done.  Personally, I have some really nice, jelled ice packs.  I’m not sure where they came from, but they are awesome!!!

*** NEVER use heat on a new injury.  It will make the swelling even worse and prevent your muscles from healing.

Bring The Heat…But When???

You want to use heat when you are having long term pain…you know…the chronic type.  Heat should only be used when the swelling has gone away.  Heat can help increase the flexibility of your muscles and reduce stiffness.  Some people will use heat before a workout.  Never use heat after a workout.

Use heat for 15 minutes at a time with a one hour break in between.  You can take a hot bath, a sauna, or simply use a warm damp towel.  A hot towel from a dryer can even do the trick.

More Of A Picture Person?  Check Out This InfoGraphic

If you like infographics, UnityPoint Health provided this great one:


The Takeaway

When to use ice versus heat is actually pretty easy to remember.  Use ice on new injuries and when swelling exists.  Use heat on injuries that are more long term or to loosen up muscles and reduce stiffness.  About 15-20 minute sessions of each at a time…with a one hour break in between.  The important thing is to ice right away when swelling occurs and continue icing at least a couple times a day over the next few days until the injury goes away.

I suspect my fingers are still a bit swollen because I didn’t ice right away and I only iced one time.  I guess I will be icing tonight.  Oh what joy!!!

Share with your friends!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *