When to use a HOT or COLD pack?

Not sure if you should use a hot or cold pack? 

Many clients come in saying they have been told to use a heat pack by another therapist or doctor, it feels good at the time but then they find they feel stiffer and more achey once they remove it. 

A simple explanation for this is that as you heat your body, the fascia (think of gladwrap surrounding each muscle group, organ and bone that helps create your shape) warms up and becomes more malleable but then once it cools down again, its like the old ‘shrinky in the oven scenario” – it actually tightens and shrinks so in the long run, prolonged heat use can cause more pain and suffering. 

Unless you use a moist heat pack (ie put in microwave with a glass of water or even apply a wet compress before you place the heat source over it – you may be dehydrating the fascia instead of hydrating it and this again leads to more pain. 

That’s why its so important to drink lots of water – yes something else we harp on about! 


Doesn’t need to be fancy – a bag of frozen peas will do! 

Anyone who has ever sprained or twisted an ankle or pulled a muscle knows that cold is your friend. Bruises, insect bites, and repetitive strain injuries such as tendinitis, also respond well to treatment with cold packs. Cold therapy can help people with muscle spasms, whiplash, and various forms of arthritis as well.

How does a cold pack work?

An injury swells because fluid leaks from blood vessels; cold causes vessels to constrict, reducing their tendency to ooze. The less fluid that leaks from blood vessels, the less swelling results. Cold also eases inflammation and muscle spasms, two common sources of pain.The sooner you apply an ice pack to a sprain or strain, the sooner it can do its job reducing pain and swelling.

HOW LONG should you use a COLD PACK?

A general rule of thumb is to ice an injury over a period of 24 to 72 hours. Apply cold packs for periods of up to 15 minutes every hour. When your skin starts to feel numb, it’s time to give your body a break from a cold pack. LESS IS BEST!


Prolonged, direct contact with cold can damage skin and nerves so always be sure to wrap your cold pack in a towel. If you have diabetes, poor circulations, or blood vessel disorders, talk with a health professional before using a cold pack.

Found this helpful? Share the love!