Hot vs. Cold Therapy

Flax Pillow.jpg

Using a hot or cold therapy pillow is an easy and inexpensive way to treat pain at home, whether you want to reduce inflammation from an acute injury or manage chronic tension or pain.

My massage clients regularly ask me to clarify if they should use heat or ice for their various musculoskeletal issues, so I have made a quick and easy reference guide below.


Effects of Heat Therapy

  • Increased blood flow

  • Oxygenation of local tissue

  • Improved tissue nutrition

  • Promotes healing

  • Increased range of motion

  • Softens scar tissue

 Use Heat Therapy For:

  • Non-acute injury

  • Muscle tension and spasm

  • Stiff joints

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Tension headaches

  • Menstrual cramps

When to Apply Heat:

Non-Acute Injury - After the first 72 hours.

Muscle Tension or Spasm - As needed.

How Long to Apply Heat: Apply Heat for 15-30 min at a time, repeat as needed.


Effects of Cold Therapy

  • Decreased blood flow

  • Reduced inflammation

  • Reduced swelling & edema

  • Numbs pain

Use Cold Therapy For:

Acute Injury

  • Sprain or Strain

  • Tissue tear

  • Bone break 

Acute Inflammatory Flare-up

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Tendonitis

When to Apply Cold:

Acute Injury - During the first 72 hours.

Acute Flare-Up - During the first 72 hours.


How Long to Apply Cold: 10-20 min, 3x daily.

Using Caution

When applying heat or cold therapy pillows avoid areas of the skin where there are open wounds, dermatitis, varicose veins or poor circulation due to diabetes.

Janna ShaperoComment