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Ice vs Heat To Improve Recovery

Both ice and heat can positively influence the healing of injuries and help reduce pain or stiffness. However, to be effective they need to be used appropriately.


Used to reduce inflammation, for new injuries, and for swelling — all of which the tissue is likely strained and damaged. Inflammation is not to be diminished, as it is the body’s natural response to promote healing. However, when the acute swelling and pain is excessive ice can help to relieve both.

  • Minimum of 10 minutes, no more than 20 minutes at a time. We recommend setting a timer to keep you on track!
  • Ice periodically during the first 48 hours after acute injury
  • Place a thin towel in between your skin and the ice pack


  • Fill a plastic zip bag with ice. Using a zip bag with a double seal will reduce any sort of leaking. You can use a sandwich-, quart-, or gallon-size bag depending on the surface area of the spot needing iced.
  • Reusable gel packs


The soothing relief that heat delivers is great relief for stiffness, tight/tense muscles, aching joints, and chronic, prolonged injuries of the like. When heat is applied to an area the blood vessels are opened up, improving flexibility of tendons and ligaments. 

  • No more than 20 minutes at a time
  • Be careful to not burn your skin! Place a towel or blanket in between your heat pack and skin so you do not burn your skin
  • Heat prior to physical activity. If you are experiencing tight muscles, apply heat to the area to help loosen things up to help avoid injury

NOTE: Heat should not be applied until inflammation (i.e. physical swelling) has been reduced, as it can increase inflammation.

REMEMBER tight muscles may be prone to injury. If you are unable to heat before an athletic event, practice, or exercising be sure to warm up your body. This may include gentle, active stretching, riding a bike, taking a brisk walk, using light weights to do Physical Therapy exercises to warm up specific areas of the body, etc. 


  • Electric heating pads
  • Reusable gel pads
  • Heated towels - Instructions for making a heated towel:
    1. Wet your towel thoroughly
    2. Wring the towel out until it is 80-90% dry
    3. Microwave the towel on high for 20 - 30 seconds
    4. Carefully remove the towel and immediately apply it to the area where you are feeling stiffness
  • Warm bath - You can add epsom salt for an extra boost of recovery
  • Hot tubs