When To Use Heat vs Cold Therapy For Pain Relief

When To Use Heat vs Cold Therapy For Pain Relief

Despite what you may know right now, pain is a debilitating condition whether it’s chronic or occasional. It wears you down and tires you out and makes your quality of life deplete quickly. There are all sorts of pills and creams you can use, but what about exploring something as simple as heat or cold therapy? These kinds of therapy are used in compresses and the hot or cold therapy is applied to the affected area to provide relief so that you can get some comfort and dexterity back to the impacted area, without having to pop a pill or anything else that you might not want to consider right away. There’s a lot to know about each of these kinds of pain relief methods, so keep reading for the benefits of heat and cold therapy for pain relief. We’ll cover where they work, where they fall short, and how to make sure they are both used effectively.
Benefits of Heat and Cold Therapy

Cold Therapy


  • What is it? As the name suggests, cold therapy uses cold temperatures to help relieve pain in those suffering in various areas as well as severities of pain. This one has been used throughout the ages and is most common in the sporting world.
  • How can you apply cold therapy to yourself? There are several methods to apply cold therapy to yourself and these exist in the professional as well as personal world. Some of the best methods are:

    • A cold compress: This is a chemical cold pack or a simple bag of ice that is applied to the swollen area for about 20 minutes every 6 hours. This is often repeated over the span of 3 days to get the most benefits out of it.
    • Soaking: You can use the method of soaking the affected area in cold water as long as it is simply cold and not freezing.
    • Cold massage: This is done by gently massaging the impacted area with an ice cube or impact in a small circular motion for 2-5 times daily for about 5 minutes each. Ice burn is a real risk, which is why you need to make sure that you stick to the timing.

  • When should you use it? There are quite a few situations in where you’ll find that a cold compress is going to be the right kind treatment for the pain at hand, which includes:

    • Osteoarthritis
    • An injury to any part of your body
    • Gout
    • Strains to muscles
    • Tendinitis
    • Migraines

With cold therapy, you often find that people will run into situations where they keep the packs on too long or they are using the therapy ineffectively, so it tends to get a bad reputation for this reason. When you use it correctly, it can be an effective solution for long term relief without resorting to medications or other drastic solutions.
There are a lot of exceptions to using cold therapy, and most of them are in regards to specific cases.  For example, if you suffer from poor circulation, if there is a risk of cramping or the wound is open with blistered skin, a cold pack should be avoided. If the area to be treated is numb already, cold is to be avoided as well. If the person being treated has a strong sensitivity to cold, or feels cold already, cold therapy is also not recommended.

Benefits of Heat and Cold Therapy

Heat Therapy


  • What is it? Often preferred by most people due to its immediate comfort, heat therapy treatment involves applying a warm compress to the impacted area and allowing the muscles to loosen up, which allows for blood to flow to the area and alleviate the pain.
  • How can you apply it to yourself? Heat is used in a variety of cases, and can be broken down as follows for the best relief:

    • A heating pad or hot water bottle: This has been used for many years as a common alleviation for stomach pain or sore muscles after exercise
    • Soaking: A warm (but not scalding hot) bath is often used to soak large areas of the body that need pain relief and is common for those with back pain
    • Paraffin wax treatment: Wax can be applied carefully to impacted areas for some great relief form pain
    • Medicated creams or patches can also be applied directly to the area in question.


  • When should you use it? Below are a few situations where heat therapy can come in handy for pain relief. (Note: Some situations do overlap with cold therapy, so it is advisable to consult your doctor for his/her recommendation):

    • Osteoarthritis
    • Strains or sprains
    • Tendonitis
    • Warming up sore muscles or tissue before use
    • Back pain or spasms from neck to lower back
    • Tension headaches

The thing to remember with heat, just like cold therapy, is that it should be applied following the proper directions and never left on too long, or it may cause more harm than good. Also, for deeper muscle pains, heat therapy alone may not do the trick. You may have to experiment with a mix of hot and cold therapy (at different intervals) to see what works best for your situation.


Both cold and heat therapy have great benefits, whether you suffer from knee pain, back pain or some other ailment. If you have any personal experience with these forms of treatment, we’d love to hear from you. What works, what doesn’t and why you tried it in the first place. Just use the comment box below. Until next time!
Disclaimer: We are not doctors here at Cold and Hot Therapy Shop. The information on when to use heat versus cold therapy explained above was done so for informational purposes only. Always consult a doctor before beginning any form of treatment.

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