Hot or Cold?

Hot or cold?

The application of hot or cold first aid onto an injury is vital to reduce inflammatory processes and promote healing.

But when exactly should you use one over the other?

This article will help educate you so you can make the correct decision when treating an injury.


Use ice when:

You injury a muscle or joint and there is swelling present

Ice is especially helpful when a bleed is suspected such as a torn ligament or muscle or direct cork (haematoma)

Use ice only when the injury is less than 2 days old

Use a damp towel between your skin and the ice pack to prevent an ice burn Apply the ice for no more than 10 minutes and apply every few hours for best results

Keep the injured area moving lightly

Do not apply ice if there is a spine injury-heat usually is better unless there has been blunt force to the back and bleeding is suspected

Fractures generally do not tolerate ice so if the injured area is hurting a lot when ice is applied and the injury is over a bony area, suspect that a fracture may have occurred

In between times of ice, use a light compression bandage to the area to reduce any bleeding, and lightly move the area within the limits of your pain


Use heat when:

The time since injury has passed 2 days

The injury involves the spine and there is significant muscle spasm

You want to increase blood flow and healing to the injured area


In addition to the principles of hot and cold, you should observe the remaining injury guidelines including:


I-Ice (for the first 2 days)

C-Compression bandage but not not rigid taping as this traps the blood and swelling into the area


R-Referral to your health professional


And do no HARM-

Heat- (for the first 2 days after an injury)

Alcohol- as this increases blood flow to the injured area

Running-as this may risk re-injuring the area

Massage-as this can lead to re-bleeding if performed too firmly within 2 days of the injury