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Tips For Treating Pain: Ice vs Heat

What is the key to treating pain when it comes to ice vs heat?

Our clients bring lots of questions to their massage sessions at Phresh, and we expect nothing less. Our therapists pride themselves on their current knowledge on the body and its functions, so they can answer your questions! We’re knowledgeable on health, injuries, recovery strategies, and more. One health question people have is, “How do I know when to use ice or heat when I am hurting?

Here are some rules to remember for treating pain before you start nursing your sore back with a frozen pizza or pressing a hot pad on your sprained elbow.


  • Ice is for injuries. When you are injured, your body reacts quickly and the injury gathers heat and begins to swell. That is why ice works so well on a sprain or bruise – it numbs the area under the skin, which stops your tissue from bleeding and swelling.
  • How to use ice: Protect your skin with oil or by wrapping your ice pack in a wet cloth. You do not want to get ice burn. Ice your affected area with something malleable – like frozen peas or a gel pad – for 20 minutes at a time. Repeat this process every couple hours, and remember that the ice will have its greatest benefits during the first 48 hours after your injury.


  • Heat is for muscle pain. Heat does the opposite of ice: it encourages blood flow to the area you are heating and loosens the tissue. (You can see how heating an injury might cause problems.) However, if you pull a muscle or feel soreness from working out, heat will help you recover.
  • How to use heat: Use heat for 15-20 minute intervals. Common ways to heat your affected area are moist hot towels, a warm bath, or hot water bottles.

The best rule to follow when it comes to ice or heat therapy is this: if you don’t want it, don’t do it. Are you already shivering? Then ice is not the answer. Are you burning up and does your injury feel hot to touch? Then no heat! Your body will react to temperatures used the wrong way. If you heat a fresh injury, it will probably become more inflamed, swollen and painful! If you ice muscle pain, your muscles will get tighter and pain will increase. 

We hope this will help you keep your bodies happy and healthy, so you can keep coming back for massages at Phresh!

To book a massage with one of our therapists, and get personalized recommendations on treating pain, tap the link at the top of the page for your desired location. Or call us today at 651.288.4040 for Grand Ave, and 763.450.1111 for West End.