Should You Use Ice or Heat for Pain?

When it comes to chronic pain in your back, neck, shoulder, or elsewhere, both ice and heat can help you feel more comfortable – at least temporarily.  

  • Ice can help reduce inflammation and temporarily numb the area so you can get a brief moment of relief.
  • Heat will help relax muscles and promote a calming comfort.
Woman using ice pack on shoulder

Healthy muscles don’t tighten up randomly, and joints don’t get inflamed without reason. These sensations are signaling a problem within your body. So, if you have to resort to using ice or heat to deal with chronic pain, there’s an underlying cause that isn’t being properly addressed. The best first step to treating pain is to see a specialist that can identify the problem before it gets worse.

Once you’ve had a specialist look into the cause of your chronic pain, using heat or ice for pain management if needed is okay. It’s a good idea to experiment with both options to see which feels and works best for your situation.

Remember, there are some common mistakes you’ll want to avoid when using ice and heat:

  • Using it to continue an activity when you should stop. For example, let’s say you resort to ice or heat after every workout. Eventually, those methods won’t be enough to relieve your pain, and your problem could become much worse.
  • Using it for too long at a time. Generally, you should only use either method for 5-20 minutes. Anything longer may result in rebound pain as your body works to return the area to regular temperature.
  • Laying on the ice or heating pack. Laying on the area can compress blood vessels, obstructing proper circulation. Restricting blood to body tissues can result in more pain and other health problems.   

Using heat or ice to manage pain? Reach out to Dr. Phipps to get help today!

Phipps Soft Tissue & Spine -Williamsville, NY Chiropractor

*Please note that every patient is different. The content and tips displayed on this page are for educational purposes only, and do not substitute for medical advice. Please consult with a medical or healthcare provider, such as Dr. Phipps, for specific diagnosis and treatment advice.