5431 Jonestown Rd

Harrisburg, PA 17112 US

(717) 540-8448

Open mobile navigation

Should I Use Heat or Ice for Pain?

Ankle treated with ice

Should you use heat or ice on your painful injury? The best method of solving this important riddle is to assess the nature and source of the pain. Essentially, a new injury, that is, one that you sustained within the last 48 hours, is best treated with ice. Chronic pain, or pain that you have had for a long time, is generally best treated with moist heat. Understanding the mechanisms of injury and the physiological and biochemical causes of pain helps us to differentiate the indications for applying ice or applying moist heat.

The primary rule is that you can never go wrong with applying ice. Ice calms things down and, although an ice application may be uncomfortably cold for a few moments, the overall effect is soothing. Cold decreases local metabolism and constricts small blood vessels (arterioles). Cold reduces nerve conduction velocity, that is, the speed at which nerve impulses are transmitted, and therefore reduces the number of pain signals that reach your brain per unit time. Thus, ice applications provide vasoconstriction, analgesia, and sedation. Ice is indicated for acute musculoskeletal injury, burns, insect bites, bleeding, and snake bites. Ice should not be used for gout, rheumatoid arthritis, Raynaud's phenomenon, history of vascular impairment, and cold allergies. As well, ice should not be used for a patient in a coma.

Moist heat increases local metabolism and dilates small blood vessels. Vasodilation results in increased nutrition, increased activity of white blood cells (phagocytosis), and increased removal of waste (metabolic end-products and damaged cellular structures). Moist heat provides analgesia, sedation, and reduces muscle spasms. Heat is best for chronic pain and muscle spasms. Contraindications to moist heat include acute musculoskeletal injury, area of diminished sensation, acute skin conditions, pregnancy, malignancy, diabetes, encapsulated swelling, hemorrhagic disorders, and suppurative conditions.

Generally, ice applications are used for acute injuries within a 72-hour time frame from the onset of the injury. Acute injury damages local capillaries, causing blood to leak into the spaces between cells and tissues, where it doesn't belong. Such uncontained blood causes pressure on local nerve endings, creating pain. Also, pressure is applied to nearby cells, causing extended injury and possibly cell death. Thus, limiting the amount of blood leaking out of disrupted capillaries is critical in slowing the effects and reducing the impact of musculoskeletal injury. Ice performs this function. Ice reduces swelling, reduces pain, and provides a sedative effect.

When applying ice, it's very important to avoid damaging the skin. Ice packs should always be wrapped in a towel. Ice should rarely be applied directly to the skin. Duration and frequency of ice applications is not an exact science, but a useful guideline is to apply ice for 15 minutes every two hours for a moderately acute injury, using three to four ice applications per day. However, you will know instinctively when the time is right to apply the next ice pack.

Moist heat applications follow similar guidelines. Dry heat should never be used. Moist heat packs should be wrapped in a towel and are applied for 15 minutes every two to three hours, up to several applications per day.

Recovering from injury requires your body to put forth a great deal of effort and requires support from the nerve system, the body's master system. Regular chiropractic care provides great assistance in the process of recovery from any injury. By detecting and correcting spinal misalignments and sources of nerve interference, regular chiropractic care helps ensure optimal functioning of the nerve system. Thus, regular chiropractic care helps facilitate your recovery and helps you return to your full range of activities as quickly as possible.

1McCarberg B, D'Arcy Y: Options in topical therapies in the management of patients with acute pain. Postgrad Med 125(4 Suppl 1):19-24, 2013

2Piana LE, et al: The Cold, Hard Facts of Cryotherapy in Orthopedics. Am J Orthop (Belle Mead NJ) 2018 Sep;47(9). doi: 10.12788/ajo.2018.0075

3Mayer JM, Mooney V: Continuous low-level heat wrap therapy for the prevention and early phase treatment of delayed-onset muscle soreness of the low back: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 87(10):1310-1317, 2006


This examination is entirely FREE!

** Due to Federal Regulations, This offer does not apply to Medicare/Medicaid. **

Office Hours

Our Regular Schedule

Monday:

8:00 am - 12:00 pm

3:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Tuesday:

8:00 am - 12:00 pm

3:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Wednesday:

8:00 am - 12:00 pm

3:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Thursday:

8:00 am - 12:00 pm

3:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Friday:

8:00 am - 12:00 pm

3:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Saturday:

Closed

Closed

Sunday:

Closed

Closed

Location

Find us on the map

Testimonials

Reviews By Our Satisfied Patients

  • "I appreciate Dr Skocik calling me at home to inquire about my recovery!
    Try stem cell & PRP therapy. It's worth it if it means having your life back without surgery!"
    Regenerative Medicine Patient O. Olagbemi
  • "I have been coming to this office for years and I would refer anyone to come to this office I never have had a bad experience."
    J. Weldon
  • "I like the combination of services they have.
    Adjustments, Maintenance, Physical Therapy options, massage and laser therapy.
    Not many places have that."
    A. Schultz
  • "The staff was very welcoming & make you feel completely comfortable. I would recommend them to anyone."
    T. Mahone
  • "Great Chiropactor , great staff, they are passionate about what they do and it shines through. I would highly recommend Skocik Chiropractic ! πŸ‘"
    T. Romberger
  • "Dr Skocik treats his patients like family, great rehab equipment, phenomenal staff and amazing massage therapists!!!"
    T. Warner
  • "I go here for massages, best you'll find in the area, and very good prices. The large office that has a wide range of chiropractic treatment equipment, and is a complete back treatment and rehab facility."
  • "This office is highly professional and organized! Great chiro service and I highly recommend!"
    J. LeCadre
  • "Simply the best! Period."
    J. Williams
  • "Dr. Skocik office treats you like family, wonderful staff and I will recommend anyone to his office.πŸ‘ πŸ‘ πŸ‘"
    K. Trollinger
  • "Amazing first impression and excellent, thorough exam for diagnosis. Physical therapy feels great."
    C. Campbell
  • "This office is organized and very professional, great chiro care! Would definitely recommend this office!"
    C. Myers
  • "I've been seeing Dr. Skocik for many years. Very professional office, he and his staff take great care of me. I recommend them often."
    T. Mowatt
  • "Absolutely love Dr. Skocik and his staff!!! I treated with this practice for several years after a really bad fall, thanks to the wonderful chiropractic care and massage therapy I am pain free and have my mobility back!! Highly recommend Dr. Skocik!!!"
    T. Coffman
  • "Coming from Toronto and seized up shoulder. Dr went way out of his way on a Saturday to open the clinic for me to assess. Very professional and kind. Wonderful."
    A.C.
  • "Doctor Skocik is really sincere about helping people"
    J. Peiffer
  • "What I love about my experience. I was able to be seen with in a 24 hours window..For those who suffer from lower back pain will truly understand how important that is. For that alone i give you five stars .. Excellent staff"
    F. Jackson
  • "I love coming here. The staff is very Friendly! I have had all kinds of issues with my back and ever since I started coming here i have made lots of improvement. I highly recommend Skocik Chiropractic!"
    Jessica C.
  • "The level of care, from the chiropractic services, to the massage therapy..to the office staff...EVERYONE treats you like family. I can honestly say that their is a genuine concern for your progress and well being.
    I would highly recommend."
    Craig W.
  • "I have always had a good experience with them and I have been a patient for a number of years. They are very nice about rescheduling appointments. The staff is always very friendly and I have always found them reasonably priced."
    L. Henninger
  • "I had a great experience in Skocik Chiropractic and they are very professional and fixed my lower back pain problem. My whole family goes to this practice and we highly recommend to other people."
    F. Zhang
  • "Skocik Chiropractic was very personable and informative. Dr. Skocik and his staff purposefully takes care of their patients with attentiveness and professionalism. I enjoyed my time there and highly recommend Skocik Chiropractic."
    B. Wanda

Featured Articles

Read about interesting topics

NEWSLETTER SIGNUP

Sign up for more articles