Deciding between warmth or cold for injuries can be confusing, and if you’re like us sometimes you try both to see which works best. Here are some general guidelines.

Cold is best used in the first 48 hours after a new injury, especially if there’s swelling. Cold reduces inflammation, slows bleeding by constricting blood vessels, calms muscle spasms, and numbs sensations of pain and heat. A safe and easy way to apply cold is to put a few ice cubes and some water into a Ziploc bag, keeping a layer of cloth between your skin and the bag.

Warmth is better for ongoing muscle pains or aches. Warmth relaxes tissue to resolve spasms and cramps, stimulates blood flow, alleviates stiffness, and can relieve pain. Heat packs can be used before an activity that causes pain, but in general don’t use it on bruises or acute injuries with swelling.

Whether using warmth or cold, don’t keep them applied continuously; intermittent use is safest. And to prevent burns, please don’t fall asleep with a heating pad on.


The information posted on this blog and website are for general information only and should never be relied on as specific medical advice for an individual reader.  No financial relationship exists between us and any recommended products or persons mentioned. All material contained here is the property of the Sheldon Sowell Center for Health, PC, and cannot be copied, reprinted, or linked to without our express permission.

Phone: 303-789-4949
Fax: 303-789-7495
1780 South Bellaire Street #700
Denver, CO 80222


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