A good rule of thumb is cold for acute pain, heat for chronic pain. Always use heat therapy prior to an activity to loosen up your muscles, and cold afterward.
For acute pain, the Soft Ice® Compression Wrap provides short-term pain relief for soft-tissue injuries. Cold compression aids in reducing swelling, bleeding, spasms and pain. Apply as soon as possible after an injury has occurred and continue for 48 to 72 hours.
Heat or Moist Heat Therapy should be used for chronic conditions such as muscle discomfort or stiffness. Applying heat to an area effectively opens up the blood vessels allowing blood to flow freely to the affected area. This increases circulation, delivering an increased supply of oxygen and nutrients and removing waste from sore, fatigued and injured muscles.
Many doctors recommend alternating cold and moist heat therapy for chronic pain as well - 20 minutes of cold, 20 minutes off, and then 20 minutes of moist heat. Combination therapy is an effective treatment for repetitive strain injuries, and can help with the pain of arthritis. For acute pain, once the swelling goes down, alternate cold therapy and moist heat therapy as described above. Our Drug-Free Pain Relief Kits provide the synergistic therapeutic benefits of cold compression and moist heat.