Kibworth Osteopaths discussing when to use ice and when to use heat on an injury.

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It’s common knowledge that both ice and heat packs can provide therapeutic value to injuries. But which is best for which?

Patients I see in the clinic will get advice about whether to ice their injury, or to use heat.

The use of ice packs, and/or heat packs can really can help the recovery process in new injuries. It plays an important role in helping to manage long-term physical problems too.

A common misconception is that the use of ice and/or heat is just for those SOS situations!

Not all advice suits all people. It’s important to bear this in mind when considering ice and heat, since people respond differently.

Generally speaking, an ice pack is a really good first line of self-help on an acute (new) injury

Generally speaking, an ice pack is a really good first line of self-help on an acute (new) injury. For example, that moment when you hurt your back in the garden. Or when you have slept funny and hurt your neck.

It’s really important when applying an ice pack (which does not need to be anything fancy, a bag of frozen peas is perfect for the job) that you wrap it in a tea towel, and gently hold it over the area for 5 minutes. This process can be repeated throughout the day (3-5 times). Using ice can help reduce the inflammation around an injury.

There are lots of cooling products available that are really good for an ‘ice pack on the move’. These can also be helpful to use over the injury before you go to bed (provided your skin is not cracked or sore). These aimage1.pngre great to use when you’re at work, or out for the day, and most of them don’t smell overpowering either.

Heat packs feel like a hug – they provide comfort and help relax sore, tight structures.

Generally speaking (not always!) I advise heat for muscle-based injuries (there are exceptions) and for more long-term (chronic) complaints.

I have found the safest and most effective way to apply heat is with a microwavable bean-bag (always used according to the instructions) because they mould to your body.

These are particularly good for tight and tense shoulder muscles. The weight of the bag also helps lengthen the muscles. Heat can be applied (again wrapped in a tea towel) for 10-15 minutes 3-5 times a day.

You could also consider Contrast Bathing

You could also consider Contrast Bathing – this is where ice packs and heat packs are used together in a routine.

This advice is generally given when an injury is more complex, and has involved more structures. Here, I ask the patient to ice the injury for 5 minutes, then apply heat for 10 minutes, and then ice again for 5 minutes.

This is all done in one sitting and it is repeated several times over the day.

Please bear in mind that ice and heat work differently – and it is important to make sure you know which is best for an injury – always check with a healthcare professional.

For more information on how Osteopathy can help you, please visit or call me directly on 07761664325.

Always happy to help you,

Emily Coombes (B’Ost)

Registered Osteopath (7416)