What to Use When — Cold and Hot Treatments for Common Injuries and Pains

What to Use When — Cold and Hot Treatments for Common Injuries and Pains

Mishaps a part of learning and growth when exercising or learning new outdoor skills. It helps to know how to effectively contain common injuries and pains.

Hot and cold treatments are simple, effective ways to alleviate aches, swelling, inflammation, and other common injuries. But knowing when to use which treatment for Common Injuries and Pains can be tricky. (Free downloadable guide at end, for FREE)

Hot and cold treatments are used:

  1. When medical intervention is delayed
  2. Till the time your medication begins to take effect
  3. As a technique to complement the body’s healing response
  4. As a technique to complement medication
  5. As a swelling and pain control mechanism when you don’t want to take medicines(due to drowsiness, other side effects or sports regulations)
  6. As a swelling and pain control mechanism when consuming more medicine doses is going to be harmful

The first thing that happens in an injury, like twists, pulls, tears, knocks or bumps, is that there is inflammation of the area, some bruising, and it is painful.

The pain can be acute, throbbing, ache only when touched or intense when the body or joint is moved.

What is Cold Treatment?

Cold treatment involves applying cold to an injured area. It can be in the form of an ice pack, a bag of frozen peas, or a cold compress.

Cold therapy works by constricting the blood vessels, slowing blood flow to the affected part and numbing nerve endings.

The type of pains or injuries that responds well to cold are:

  1. Acute tissue damage- something is torn, broken, or pulled
  2. For acute injuries, such as a sprained ankle or a pulled muscle
  3. For bruises or contusions
  4. For bumps or knocks
  5. For swelling or inflammation
  6. For headaches or migraines

Applying ice can reduce the formation of bruises and blood clots in the tissue.

Once the swelling has gone down and the injury has aged, you want to move out of the way and let your body’s healing processes act.

An excellent way to decide when to stop ice application is to observe the injured area — is it red, hot, unusually swollen and painful? If so, continue the cold treatment.

If not, you can probably move on to heat or medication.

What is Hot Treatment?

Hot treatment involves applying warmth to an injured area. It can be in the form of a warm towel, a hot water bottle, or a heating pad.

Hot treatment increases blood flow to the affected area, which causes the pain to disappear, at least temporarily, by relaxing the muscles.

Avoid using heat on an acute injury, as it can increase swelling and inflammation.

Heat therapy can help relieve:

  1. Muscle spasms,
  2. Cramps
  3. Chronic or nagging pain.
  4. Muscle or joint Stiffness
  5. Muscle soreness, or DOMS
  6. Joint pain
  7. Arthritis
  8. Menstrual cramps

These pains are induced by things like electrolyte imbalance, menstrual cycle, soreness or knots due to muscle overuse, and spasm caused by prolonged or repeated use of the injured body part.

So, Hot or Cold?

One rule of thumb is that ice is for the first few hours to a few days after an injury, and heat is for afterwards. Heat is more appropriate when the pain decreases from throbbing to dull and the swelling reduces.

Here are some common examples of injury and recommended treatment:


  • Recently pulled or torn muscle which is an acute injury
  • Recently sprained ankle or another joint
  • Severe, recent bruising


  • Sore muscles after exercise or DOMS
  • Muscle spasms or cramps
  • Specific pain points or knots in the muscle
  • Back pain

When using heat or cold treatments, never apply them directly to the skin. Always wrap the heat or cold source in a towel or cloth before applying it to the injured area.

If you’re unsure about which treatment to use or if your injury is severe, always seek the advice of a healthcare professional.

If you work with the aged and with children or are active in the outdoors industry, or if you travel often, here is a FREE downloadable handy guide that you can keep on your phone for quick reference.

Hi, I am Nalanda. I write about Adventure Travel, Personal Effectiveness and stories from the rich tapestry of LIFE!

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