One of the most common questions asked by patients is whether they should be using heat or ice. Though many times the use of heat or is specific to the injury or the patient here are some general guidelines.
Ice treatment should be used following acute injuries (anything that has happened within the last 48 hours) or any injury where swelling is a problem. Ice can help minimize swelling around the injury site.
Ice is also appropriate if you have a chronic overuse injury where swelling is likely occurring and contributing to pain. When icing a chronic injury make sure it is done after activity, never before.
Heat treatment should be used for chronic conditions to help relax and loosen tissues. Use of heat will stimulate blood flow to the area and should never be used when swelling is present.
Commonly muscle aches and burning pain does well with heat treatments. Do not use heat treatments after activity and never after an acute injury.
These are some loose guidelines on when to use heat vs. ice, if you have questions always contact your health care provider or physical therapist.