Main content

Should I use an ice-pack or a heat pack for an injury?

There’s a simple rule for getting it right. Whether you treat with ice or heat depends on the type of injury.

If you have a sudden injury which results in swelling, such as a sprained ankle, you should treat it with COLD. This will cause the blood vessels to constrict, reducing the blood flow, which should help bring down the swelling. Get something like ice or a frozen bag of peas, wrap it in a tea towel, and put it on the affected area for about 20 minutes every 2 to 3 hours.

If the injury is a long-term, sustained injury then heat may help. The heat should only be a gentle warmth, just below body temperature. A hot water bottle would do the trick, or just a towel made damp with hot water. The theory is that this can increase blood flow to the damaged tissue.