Health & Fitness

Should I use ice or heat?

Q: If my muscles are sore, which is better: Ice or heat?

A: Muscle soreness after exercise can hinder your exercise routine and daily activities. If you feel a dull soreness starting about 8 hours and lasting a few days after an intense bout of physical activity, it is likely that you are suffering from this common condition.

Ice is usually recommended to use on an area that has inflammation, which causes it to be red, warm, swollen, and/or painful. Ice is usually used as part of the initial treatment for sprains and strains, and other injuries.

Ice treatments are generally recommended for 15- to 20-minute applications. It can be in the form of real ice or a commercial substitute. These applications are commonly used 4-6 times during the first 48 hours after a soft-tissue injury.

Heat is generally recommended for chronic aches and pains, or new and minor muscular pains. People often choose a heat pack for problems like a stiff neck or a sore back. The muscles seem to relax under the warming therapy. The heat can help improve circulation and reduce muscle spasms. However, the application of heat could actually increase some inflammation issues, so if you are in doubt, consult a professional.

Bottom line: Try ice for new injuries that cause pain, redness, and/or swelling. And choose heat for chronic pain or minor sore muscles to feel better sooner.

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