Heat or Ice? How to Know What Your Injury Needs

When you’re playing hard, you run the risk of getting injured. While proper training, warm-ups, and technique can help prevent injury, injury can happen to anyone at any time – so, how to best treat them when they come? Well, it depends on the injury! Sometimes it’s good to apply heat, and sometimes it’s good to apply ice, we’re here to help you figure out which one you need for your injury.  


Seeking Help for Your Injury 

If you’ve been injured, you should not just rely on advice you find on the internet to guide your recovery, you should consult a medical professional. Once you get a sports injury, your first call should be to book an appointment with your physiotherapist, who can help you get back to the game with exercises and care advice.  

Avoiding getting professional care or trying to get back to your regular fitness routine before you’re fully recovered will just increase your chances of getting injured again, and injured worse 


The Effect of Heat 

When you apply heat to your skin, it increases blood flow to that area – this is said to help reduce pain, improve circulation, and accelerate the healing process. There are many ways to apply  
heat to injuries when you get them, including via creams, patches, roll-ons, and wheat packs. Each of these methods has their own benefits, so choose the one that works best for you!  

Injuries You Should Apply Heat To 

While heat can be a great method for pain relief, it’s not recommended for all injuries. As heat causes vasodilation, it’s not recommended to use it on injuries like sprains because it can increase pain and swelling. This is also why you should wait 48 hours after the injury has occurred to start applying heat.  


So, when should you apply heat? Heat is most effective on: 


The Effect of Ice  

Ice is the opposite of heat, which is why it has the opposite effect: it works as a vasoconstrictor, decreasing blood flow to the injured area, reducing swelling and pain. Ice has a numbing effect, which makes it great for managing the initial pain that comes with injury.

Ice should be applied immediately after an injury has occurred, it’s the ‘I’ in the RICE method of managing injuries. 


The benefits of RICE are: 

  • Rest – keeps the injury immobilised to prevent further injury 
  • Ice – reduces pain by numbing the area 
  • Compression – helps control swelling 
  • Elevation – reduces swelling and its associated discomforts

You can apply ice in many ways, including as a gel, spray, ice pack, or ice in a bag – just remember that you shouldn’t apply ice directly to the skin, make sure to apply it through a towel or similar fabric. Ice also shouldn't be applied for too long, remember the 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off rule!   

Injuries You Should Apply Ice To 

Ice should be used for acute injuries, meaning injuries that occur suddenly, and is most effective when applied within 48 hours of the injury occurring. These injuries include: 

  • Sprains 
  • Rolled ankles 
  • Muscle strains 
  • Bruises and other soft tissue injuries 
  • Injuries that already feel numb

Not all injuries should be treated with ice, things like broken bones, serious soft-tissue injuries, or cramps won’t be helped with ice.


Preventing Injury – Heat or Ice? 

If your goal is to prevent injuries so you don’t have to worry about healing them, then you need to do the appropriate preparation before you hit the court, field, pitch, or track. So, can heat or ice help?  

As we’ve said, ice constricts, reducing blood flow to the area that it’s applied to. This is why it should not be applied prior to physical exercise.  

To get your body prepped for high performance, you want to be loosening your muscles increasing the blood flow to them. Heat can help with this, which is why we recommend applying it as part of your sports prep.   

To help prevent injury, you should also: 

  • Wear the appropriate gear, especially shoes 
  • Stretch the muscles you will be using, ensuring they’re not stiff 
  • Complete appropriate warm-ups to get your heart pumping and blood flowing to where it needs to be 
  • Focus on using the right techniques for each movement you need to perform 

Injuries happen to all of us, but when you take the appropriate steps to prevent them, then they will happen less often. 

Choosing the Right Treatment for You 

Deep Heat creates products that help you perform hot and cold therapies at home, work, school, or wherever else you need to be. We’re her to help you perform your best and, when you’re injured, get back into the game.

So, when choosing your treatment method, keep Deep Heat at the front of your mind.