Healthpointe Medical Southern California

Making the Choice: Hot or Cold

When it comes to orthopedic injuries like sprains and fractures, ice packs and heat pads are the first line of defense for athletes, sports therapists and doctors alike for good reasons.  These treatments can lessen the impact of injuries to the muscles and bones caused by vigorous physical activity including physical accidents like tripping on the track.

But applying the right temperature – hot or cold – on the affected area can be trickier than most people like to believe.

Choose Cold in Case of

In general, ice treatment is usually applied for acute injuries such as ankle or wrist sprain.  Injuries sustained within the last 48 hours wherein swelling on the affected joint becomes an issue should be subjected to ice treatment.  The cold temperature aids in minimizing the swelling around the injured part, which means lesser pain and faster healing.

There are several ways to apply ice on an injury.  Take your pick depending on the availability of materials and the location of the injury:

  • Submerge the injured part in cold water
  • Apply a bag of frozen peas directly over the affected area
  • Place ice cubes in a plastic wrap then wrap it in a clean towel before placing on the injured area
  • Apply an ice pack over the injury

But don’t subject the injured area to the cold temperatures for too long lest more damage happens; frostbite is a possibility in this case.  Experts suggest applying ice treatments for just 20 minutes or less at a time because not only can longer periods result in harm but more ice application will not result in more pain relief.

Yes, ice treatments can also be applied for chronic conditions as is the case of overuse injuries in amateur and professional athletes (i.e., overuse of wrists among tennis players).  But never ever ice a chronic injury before an activity but after an injury to aid in inflammation control.

Choose Heat in Case of

Heat packs, on the other hand, are best used for chronic conditions.  The heat will aid in relaxing the muscles and loosening the tissues in the injured area, thus, promoting blood flow.  The rationale: The greater the blood flow to the area, the faster the healing of the injury.

As such, heat treatments are suitable for chronic conditions caused by overuse injuries.  Heat is then best applied before engaging in physical activities where the injured area will be used.

Like cold applications, heat applications can cause harm when applied too long or too hot.  Use moderate heat for 20 minutes at a time to avoid burns on the skin; never ever apply heat pads when sleeping for this reason.

You can apply moderate heat to the affected area by using a heating pad or a hot wet towel.  Either one will do the job for as long as you follow safety instructions.

Don’t stop with the cold or hot applications in case of injuries. You must also adopt other measures to relieve the symptoms including pain, tenderness and swelling, said measures of which include painkillers, splints and lifestyle changes, among others.

If you have some question about managing your pain or feel that you would need to see an orthopedic doctor call 888-719-8448. Or you can walk in to any of our locations such as, our Irwindale Office near Duarte, Azusa, West Covina, Vincent, and Mayflower Village.

About Healthpointe:

Healthpointe is a leading multidisciplinary healthcare organization offering a full range of medical services in practice locations throughout Southern California (Los Angeles county, Orange county, San Bernardino county and Riverside county). Healthpointe has locations situated in over 10 cities in Southern California including Garden Grove, which is conveniently located near Stanton, Santa Ana and Westminster. As a highly regarded musculoskeletal group, we have a personal investment in the highest level of service, and we are proud of our record of excellence over the last four decades with private patients, injured workers, urgent care, personal injuries, and professional and non-professional athletes. Leading our organization is a dynamic team of healthcare professionals who continually strive to be at the forefront of medical innovation and healthcare service delivery. For more information, a complete list of services, and Healthpointe locations, visit


About Brandon Davila

Hello! This is Brandon Davila, the Content Manager of Healthpointe. I’m a lifelong learner and chronic book-reader with a strong passion for the healthcare industry and search engine optimization. For more of Brandon, check out his articles on the Healthpointe blog.

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