Do I Apply Ice OR Heat?

Did you know that there has been a backflip in the recommendations on use of ice for injuries and pain? This could be costing you valuable time on the sidelines. 

I often get asked about when to use ice and when to use heat. And I also see patients that have followed outdated advice and its cost them recovery time. Taking the time and attention to manage acute and chronic injuries can make a significant difference in how the body responds, heals and ultimately, recovers.

Most of us are familiar on what to do when we first do an injury, but what about when its 1 week on or 1 month on? What do we do with chronic issues that flare up? Over the last 3-4 years, thankfully, recommendations of the use of ice for injuries has been updated. My concern is that many people are still following old, outdated recommendations, slowing their recovery.


Watch this video or keep reading


3 management strategies to optimise your recovery and healing:

  1. Apply ICE - This will slow blood flow, reducing inflammation, swelling and pain
    Within the first 24hrs after acute injury
    Apply ice for 10 minutes every 2 hours
    Exceeding 10 mins with each application can cause further tissue damage.
  2. Apply HEAT - Increase blood flow to relax muscles, improve drainage of wastes away and delivery of repair cells
    Any pain or inflammation lasting beyond 24 hours from onset
    Apply heat for 20 minutes every 2-3 hours
    Arthritic, other inflammatory conditions and chronic injuries will usually respond better to the application of heat.
  3. Cycle ICE & HEAT - Get the benefits of both ice and heat
    To get the benefits of both ice and heat you can alternate them both
    Cycling through them over 20 minutes, 5 minutes at a time each.



  • Don't apply ice up to 30 minutes before exercise or strenuous activity
  • Don't apply heat up to 1 hour after strenuous activity
  • Don't apply ice or heat directly to the skin, use a towel around the source
  • Don't apply to broken skin or an area of infection
  • Don't apply to areas of poor sensitivity or feeling of hot or cold


I've completed a great decision making tool to help you out in what to apply and when. It's a downloadable PDF checklist called "Do I apply ice or heat? Improve your healing time and get back to what you love doing fast!"


So, if you would like more information or aren’t sure what to apply when, then you can use this tool as a guide to use the most effective method to help reduce your inflammation and pain and to enhance your recovery. It also includes other great tips on how to achieve the fastest recovery you can.

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Written by Dr. Jess Harvey B.Sc. (Anat, Phys), B.Ap.Sci (Comp. Med.), Ma Osteo., Registered Osteopath and Director of Head 2 Toe Health.

We provide Osteopathy, Acupuncture, Massage, Life Coaching and Counselling in Springwood (Brisbane) and Oxenford (Gold Coast). We aim to get you as well as possible, as fast as possible, permanently. We believe in a thorough approach to restoring and maintaining health and address many aspects of our lifestyles that can contribute to pain, stiffness, dis-ease and disease. For any further information, please contact us on or 07) 3208 8308.

This information is intended as a general guide only and is not specific for any particular condition or situation. This information is for educational purposes only. Please seek specific advice for your individual circumstances.