The question of whether to apply Ice or Heat to an injury/condition is a question we get asked in the clinic multiple times per day. The reason there is so much confusion about which to choose for which issue is because there is no cut and dry, fail safe decision that can be made. Ice and Heat both work effectively on a wide ranges of issues, and can more often than not both be used at some stage of recovery.
Below is an infographic outlining when it may be best to use one over the other. (Click image to enlarge).
As a general rule of thumb, ice should be used if there is an acute injury, meaning whatever has caused your pain has happened recently. Ice restricts blood flow to the area and aids in relieving inflammation. If the injury is chronic or has been present for more than a few weeks, heat will give more relief, and will be less likely to aggravate the condition.
Article by Dr Josh Murphy (Chiropractor)