Ice vs Heat: Which Method is Better to Treat Aches and Pain?

Prof. Nikhil Pradhan
Heat Pack Vs Cold Pack Pain

Ice Vs. Heat: When to Use Which for Aches & Pain?

Everyone, once in a while, experience muscle straining, ligament spraining, headache or some other form of aches and pain in the body throughout life.
But when you do feel pain, you might wonder which is best for pain relief – ice or heat? Or can you benefit from using both? These are a few questions that confuse a large number of people. This blog aims to answer those questions and much more.

Heat and Cold Treatment

According to medical experts, both heat and cold treatment can provide huge pain relief for the majority conditions causing pain. Sometimes, ice packs and warm compressions can minimize the need for pain medications too.

However, it is important to know how heat and cold treatment work, how it helps reduce pain and when to use them. Read on to find out in-depth information about all the topics mentioned.


The use of ice is known to constrict or narrow the blood vessels. This, in turn, prevents the body from inducing inflammation in the area pressed by ice. Thus, ice can minimize the damage caused to tissues immediately after experiencing an injury.

This is the reason why ice is often recommended immediately in case of injuries, sprains and strains. It can further help in reducing swelling and bleeding. At the same time, doctors recommend avoiding ice on stiff joints.

How to use Ice?

You can apply ice using an ice towel and ice pack or cold compress. Apply ice to the affected area within 48 to 72 hours and in cycles of 10 to 20 minutes.


Heat is known to dilate or widen blood vessels thus bringing more blood, oxygen and nutrients to the area affected. It mainly acts well against muscle stiffness and promotes muscle and joint mobility. It can negate the need for pain medication.

Heat is recommended by doctors for the treatment of chronic pain, usually caused by tension headaches and low back pain. Heat should be avoided to treat injuries or bruises in the first 48 hours.

How to use Heat?

You can apply heat using a warm towel and heating pad. Apply heat to the affected area in cycles of 20 to 30 minutes every hour.

Both Ice and Heat Therapy for Pain Relief

Advanced treatment techniques include both ice and heat therapy for pain relief. It involves icing for a specific period of time followed by heating for a specific duration. The pumping mechanism pushes inflammation away from the affected area of the body.

However, it is highly suggested to seek the help of medical experts and experienced doctors before using ice and heat therapy for pain relief to avoid any possible complications.

Choosing Between Ice and Heat for Different Conditions

So, what heals faster – ice or heat? There is no specific answer available as ice and heat treatment can be more helpful depending on the different conditions. They are discussed below. 


As discussed before, heat should not be used on acute injuries. It increases inflammation and delays healing. Instead, ice constricts blood vessels numbing the pain.

People with sensitivity to cold may be tempted to choose heat in case of sports injuries. But know that cold treatment early can minimize pain, swelling and inflammation, while heat may worsen it. You can get the best sports injury treatment in the UK at Cheshire Clinic. Prof. Nikhil Pradhan is one of the leading and vastly experienced orthopaedic doctors in the UK.


Damaged or worn-out cartilage in joints can cause pain in different parts of the body, such as the knee, shoulder and elbow. Moist heat helps to ease pain related to arthritis.


When there is a sudden onset of pain and inflammation due to Gout, the ice applied can control the flare-ups and numb the pain.


When it comes to headaches, ice can calm the throbbing pain, while heat can help neck spasms that often lead to headaches.

Nerve Pain

Patients often ask – ice or heat for nerve pain. Doctors recommend cold treatment when the pain is sharp and heat when the sharpness goes away.

Muscle strains and sprains

Pain related to muscle strains and sprains often resolves with a combination of ice and heat.

Orthopaedic Surgeon in Cheshire

Prof Nikhil Pradhan is one of the leading, trusted and experienced orthopaedic doctors in Cheshire, UK. He has successfully treated countless patients. He is also one of the well-known knee and hip replacement surgeons in Cheshire. Book an appointment today! For more details, contact us today.

Dr Nikhil pradhan hip surgeon

Prof. Nikhil Pradhan

Prof. Nikhil Pradhan is a specialist Hip & Knee Surgeon, dedicated to Hip and Knee Surgery, including the latest customised and personalised knee surgery.

Prof.Nikhil Pradhan has pioneered the i-assist computerized Total Knee Replacement in the UK having performed the first surgery in the UK and has one of the largest series of i-assist Total Knee Replacements.

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Please do not hesitate to speak to Chris Davies on 01925710401 if you have an queries.

Prof. Nikhil Pradhan
FRCS (Tr & orth); FRCS (Glag); MCh(orth) MBBS; MS (orth); D’(orth); FCPS (orth); DNB (orth) Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon, Warrington hospital Clinical Orthopaedic Research Group, Wrightington hospital.