Ice & Heat


When do you use ice and heat?

Ice is used immediately after injury with compression, elevation and support. Ice is used to control swelling and decrease bruising, bleeding and muscle spasm. It should be applied where there is normal sensation for 10 minutes every 2 hours while the person is awake for the first 24-72 hours after the injury. Never apply directly to the skin but in a towel or pack. Movement can be done within the pain-free range of movement while the ice is on and the limb elevated.

Heat is used for 10-20 minutes to an area with muscle spasm or stiffness symptoms 48-72 hours after injury or for long standing problems. The person should be awake and the area should have normal sensation. You can exercise or stretch with the heat on to assist the movement after the heat. Heat can be done with a hot pack (moist and most penetrating), heating pad, hot tubs, sauna etc.

Physiotherapists can start and/or end treatment with ice and heat so that patients recovery is enhanced with exercises, mobilizations, manipulation or other modalities.