Should I Apply Ice or Heat?

Jul 28, 2021

The age-old debate of Ice vs heat has caused some controversy in the medical world over the years! We’ve all been injured at some point in our lives and your friend said ‘quick get an ice pack!’ or a medical nurse said ‘you just need to get some heat on it!’ but which one is it that we really need when hurt?

Well, the answer itself may lay in where you are hurt and what type of injury you have sustained. We’ve touched on Ice Vs Heat in our pain management at home blog previously but today we’re going to talk more in depth about when to and when not to use ice and heat.

Ice and Heat are two very different methods of pain/injury relief and because of this our bodies react very differently to each. This is why one or the other may be needed at different times based on your injury or condition, so it’s crucial to know when to, and when not to use ice or heat. Inflammation, swelling, pressure and pain are usually the first symptoms to appear after an injury and make managing the pain difficult. Our friend Ice is known to reduce inflammation/ swelling and blood flow, you’ll know ice is also great for numbing pain, so usually on initial impact of an injury using an ice pack is a great go-to for helping to ease the instant pain. In comparison, heat does something completely different. Heat improves your circulation, causing an increase in blood flow, heat also helps to relax muscles and stiff joints.

Ice tends to be administered and used for acute injuries, acute pain or new injuries for the fact that it is good at lessening the initial pain and injury symptoms but also means that ice is more of a temporary fix. Ice can potentially numb the nerves in the areas it is applied to which is good for pain relief, but also means that there are some minor problems associated with using ice improperly. You should only use ice for 15 to 20 minutes at a time, If you apply ice to areas for longer than advised you can cause your joints to feel tighter and stiffer, increasing pain instead of relieving it. A very serious side affect for those who suffer with joint issues already with conditions like arthritis. Many common chronic types of pain like back or neck for example will not benefit from ice, they would benefit from heat. The ice will cause aggravation of the muscles and result in increased pain and discomfort from the tightness.

Heat is mostly used to relax stiff muscles and joints, and is especially beneficial for managing and soothing chronic pains. As heat improves circulation it aids in relieving stress and tensions in the body which could be causing the stiffness and pain in the back and/or neck. Improvement in blood flow is also known to help healing damaged tissues which can then help in the later stages of rehabilitation. Heat therapy can be used for longer periods of time on the body but is still usually most effective within 15-10 minutes of use, however unlike ice – heat should not be applied to areas with swelling and inflammation as heat can make these symptoms worsen.

It is clear that ice does have its own applications after suffering a recent injury where swelling and inflammation are present, but after those symptoms have subsided, ice can no longer provide any further healing to the injury. Instead, heat provides a much more effective and long-term solution to most common and chronic pains. Due to heat being the more viable long-term pain relief option the medical industry has incorporated heat into treating chronic pains with technologies such as TECAR Therapy.

TECAR is an energy technology delivered by physiotherapists that promotes faster functional recovery through heat. TECAR energy (a high frequency current) is very popular with athletes and many other patients which is why we commonly use TECAR Therapy in our clinic due to its therapeutic benefits. We have been using TECAR to treat patients for many years ensuring the highest levels of knowledge and skill in treating a wide range of conditions.

The key benefits of TECAR therapy are:

  • Accelerates pain reduction in comparison to other electrotherapies such as ultra-sound
  • Accelerates the natural healing mechanisms of the body, thereby reducing recovery time
  • Faster functional recovery. (The beneficial effects are apparent after just a few sessions and improvements can be observed even 24 hours after treatment.)
  • Treatment is painless and relaxing.
  • Treatments are safe and have high therapeutic efficacy.
  • Promotes a sense of well-being, predisposing the subject towards post-treatment physical activity.
  • Faster rehabilitation.

If you are suffering from pain or an injury/condition and have not found relief in either ice or heat, you may benefit from TECAR therapy, why not book a FREE 15-minute discovery visit with a physio?

In this complimentary visit you will have a chance to speak to about your needs/and or condition/concerns and we will let you know if physio or TECAR therapy is right for you.

To book an appointment or FREE discovery visit, callus on: 0207 636 8845


Since seeing Louise (following an Achilles rupture repair), I have:

- Made it back onto tennis / squash courts to (tentatively!) celebrate 1 year anniversary of my surgery 
- Ran my fastest 10k at 43.57! 
- Ran 5k in 21:30 (vs pre-surgery PB of 20:18) 
- I increased my single leg calf lift to 59 kg (vs ~18 kg initially a few months ago) 
- I had a final appt with my consultant, who discharged me while congratulating me on a wonderful recovery

All the above is to illustrate that I'm absolutely delighted with the progress I have made since last summer when I couldn't do anything and the outlook seemed bleak. I'll be forever grateful for Louise’s guidance and support as I've navigated the long road back from my injury, and I appreciate the continued advice to help me prepare for more dynamic activity. Louise has been really fantastic and I couldn't have asked for better care.

Recovering from a full Achilles rupture. Started my work with Nina in feb and my progress has only been positive and upwards and I am almost at full speed again. Nina put me back together again almost from scratch. She is the best physio I have ever worked with and will again. Very knowledgable and very hard working. Can’t recommend enough.


What a great find! My orthopaedic surgeon recommended them and I can't rate Luigi, Gloria and the team more highly. Excellent service and very effective treatment- recovering nicely!


I am 84 years old, and have always been fit and healthy and exercised regularly. 3 years ago I underwent emergency surgery for peritonitis, and had a colonoscopy bag for 6 months and straight after surgery to reversal of the stoma. After this surgery I felt my legs very weak. To complete my drama, during the last summer I developed an abdominal hernia and had surgery for hernia repair. This made me even weaker specially at my legs. I have recovered but felt weak. I started my sessions at ALO Physiotherapy at the beginning of January, with the Vibra Machine combined with specific exercises. I have now recovered my body strength, particularly in the legs. I am now walking normally and without pain. I am delighted!


Great clinic with great people! I was so lucky to find this clinic and even more when I met Andre. He's a very talented therapist and a wonderful person who makes you feel comfortable every time. He helped me to resolve my back problems in few appointments and I will be always grateful to him! From my experience is the best clinic in London and I highly recommend them without any doubts!


One of the best physiotherapy centres in the world! The professionalism and knowledge of this centre amazed me.


I am so glad I found this clinic. Luigi has been amazing. After my 1st session I felt an improvement and now have ALOT more movement and significant reduction in pain. I couldn’t recommend this clinic & Luigi enough. So helpful and flexible whenever I have needed to amend appointments. Every one is fantastic. I will continue to come here for as long as I need.


Andre is the best physiotherapist I came across. As a dedicated martial arts practitioner, I regularly use his services. He has always managed to fix my various back and leg injuries. I would recommend Alo Physiotherapy to anyone who suffers from body pain.


Where do I begin? The journey has been too long with Andre Oliveira and ALO Clinic , as he helped me both physically and mentally to overcome an injury I had in both of my knees. A small injury , after following wrong treatment became chronic and I found myself unable to walk/stand/run and do the simplest things- the mental impact was worse. I was introduced to Andre by Eleftherios Pavlidis who runs Laertion in Athens. lefteris with his team were the first to accommodate the problem and told me what I need to do. As a Londoner, I was introduced to Andre and ALO Clinic, and the rest is history. Since February 2017 when I had the first session with Andre and he identified the biomechanic nature of the problem, along with the use of Tecar the results were visible after one month. Since then, along with personal effort and strengthening I did always guided by Andre, I the problem is restored and the pain is gone. I highly recommend ALO Physiotherapy Clinic , and Andre Oliveira for anyone who suffers from sport injuries , amateurs or professional top athletes.


Very professional staff and friendly environment. I felt a lot better after very first session. Appointment are easily available. I would definitely recommend this place


The care I received from ALO Physiotherapy was outstanding from the first session to the last. Sessions with Louise were informative as well as practical, allowing me to understand the context/logic behind treatment as well as tips to prevent future injuries. Louise was always readily available to answer my questions and the treatment process was collaborative rather than being prescriptive. Beyond the expertise of the team the quality of the equipment and facilities was incredibly high and aided my recovery significantly. I would recommend ALO Physiotherapy to anyone who requires physiotherapy treatment in the Marylebone area.

ALO is an excellent well-run clinic and Louise Hynes who looked after me is a superb physiotherapist. Louise is knowledgeable, skilled and very efficient at her job. My sore shoulder was sorted out in no time thanks to her. Thank you, Louise, and thank you ALO.

Julian Webber, Harley Street Endodontist.

ALO is an excellent well-run clinic and Louise Hynes who looked after me is a superb physiotherapist. Louise is knowledgeable, skilled and very efficient at her job. My sore shoulder was sorted out in no time thanks to her. Thank you, Louise, and thank you ALO.

Julian Webber, Harley Street Endodontist.

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