Injury Woes - When to use Ice or Heat

Posted by Louise Leadbitter on

This month our blog touches on something we'd rather avoid thinking about... injury. However, it's better to be prepared and so Amber from Amber Healing is here to help!

Please note, this advice does not constitute a doctor's insight into an injury. If you are concerned after applying immediate first aid to an injury, please see your doctor.

When do we use an ice pack versus a heat pack? This very question sparks some confusion for many people when they have an injury or experience pain in the body.

Both options are simple, affordable, and drug free pain relief that makes you stop, sit and rest when you use either one.

Here is a simple guide for which one to grab in times of need.

Ice packs

Generally speaking ice and cold packs help to numb an area and release pressure around an injury or joint. Cold helps reduce swelling and helps numb sharp pain. An ice pack can be frozen veggies or a cool wet flannel or towel, wrung out and placed on the affected area.

Grab a cold pack for swollen joints, swelling in the body, bursitis, sports injury, sprains, strains, tendon pain, mastitis, breast swelling, post surgery,  RSI, wrist pain, headache, shoulder pain, tender points, sciatica (yes I always suggest ice over warmth for sciatica and nerve related pain responses! Try it! You can always alternate heat and ice too!) 

A wet flannel applied to the forehead and the base of the feet helps to lower the bodies core temperature and aids the body to perspire and ‘break’ the fever. Adding essential oils like a drop of peppermint or lavender oil to the water you rinse the cloth in helps also.

Caution: Ice packs can freeze the area affected. Be careful to wrap the ice packs in paper towel or a thin cloth.

Heat Packs

Heat helps relax stiff muscles and joints. Heat is for deep aching pain and discomfort.  For things like arthritis, endometriosis pain and period pain, a heat pack on the affected area will feel better for warmth and it is comforting.

Don’t have a heat pack? Did you know you can use your hands? Our natural instinct when we have a sore spot is to rub it or touch it to relieve the discomfort felt. When you hold the affected area, after a few minutes, your hands will start to heat up. This can help to release the discomfort felt and helps to give the brain a new message. Rather than sending off pain response pings through the nervous system, once the discomfort starts to dissipate, the pain receptors are no longer on high alert and sending the message of pain and discomfort to the area. Your brain and your body are incredibly clever and you can switch off the pain response quite easily in the body when you apply heat or ice to the affected area, thus bringing about a sensation of relief and less discomfort naturally.

Grab a heat pack for period pain, tummy ache, tired achy muscles, fibromyalgia, arthritis, deep aching in the body, back pain, muscle spasms, hip pain, knee pain, stiffness in the joints and back, cold feet.

Caution: Don’t apply heat pack directly to the skin, similar to ice packs, wrap the heat pack in a towel or apply over clothing. Heat burns. Ensure the heat pack is not too hot when applied to the body.

Next time your body is achy or you have an injury, instead of grabbing for the pain relief drugs, try natural pain relieving heat or ice packs first for 15 minutes and see how the body responds.

The general rule of 15/2/15 works well with heat and ice packs. Apply for 15 minutes, wait 2 hours, apply again for another 15 minutes.


Amber Davies is the owner of Amber Healing - offering Bowen Therapy, Reiki Healing, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Emmett Technique and Aromatouch Massage. We are a proud member of the International Institute for Complementary Therapists (IICT)OAMPS Insurance Brokers and the Bowen Therapies Federation of Australia

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