You may be an athlete or just a person running errands after work, but by chance you have twisted your ankle and are in a bit of pain. There is some minor swelling but no serious pain. It is not broken, but it could stand for a bit of TLC.

At home, you have a heating pad and some ice packs. The question is: What do I use: Heat or Cold?Pain: Cold vs. Heat - RaritanPT

Here lies one of the greatest debates of all time when it comes to injury. The problem is not what to use because both are useful. It is with which injury types that you use heat or cold. This will give you a better idea of when to use cold or heat.

Let’s return to that ankle. This is when you need ice. This is acute pain and a fresh injury with swelling. Ice does two things: numbs the pain and reduces inflammation. Ice is not for tense muscles or spasms – it can exacerbate the condition.

Those nagging injuries from years ago, chronic pain or the like calls for heat. Heat relaxes muscles and allows stiff joints additional flexibility. Heat is not for acute injuries! It can increase the inflammation and slow healing.

Muscle injuries
In the process of unloading the groceries, you pull a back muscle. This is a bit more complicated than previous injuries.

If ice is for a new injury and heat is to relax muscles, what happens when you injure a muscle? If it really is a muscle injury (severe, sudden muscle pain after a trauma) this is where it gets a little tricky. Start with some ice to lessen the swelling. This is your first priority. After the swelling and pain subsides, switch to heat to help with the soreness.

For more tips like these, please contact Raritan Physical Therapy. We are happy to answer any questions you may have; especially when it comes to taking care of an injury.