Sports Injury Clinic

Hot and/or Cold-When Should You Use Them?

on December 21, 2020

One of the most common questions we are asked in the clinic is whether to use hot or cold treatment on an injury. People tend to be aware that one form of treatment is necessary, but are rarely sure which!

Here we outline what each treatment is trying to achieve.


The use of heat will encourage a warming effect to the area that it is applied, which is loosens tight tissue and makes it more flexible. The use of heat is therefore highly effective in improving pain caused by tight muscle structures. It is commonly used to treat lower back or neck pain. The negative side of heat treatment is that it will create an extra blood supply to the area. If the area is inflamed then the use of heat should be avoided so as to not create excessive inflammation. Heat should, therefore, be avoided on muscle strains or joint sprains. Heat is typically applied via hot water bottles or ‘Deep Heat’ creams.

Heat is very beneficial to tight muscle tissue and for injury avoidance. In the early stages of any injury heat should be avoided.


The use of cold treatment has two key benefits;

  1. It creates an anti-inflammatory effect
  2. It acts as a painkiller

Cold treatment is therefore very popular in any injury where inflammation is suspected. Whilst inflammation is a necessary process it is important to keep it controlled and cold treatment is an effective way of achieving this. Ice is very commonly used in the acute or initial phase of an injury where both inflammation and pain are likely to be high. Typical injuries could be a muscle tear or ankle sprain. Cold treatment is usually applied via ice packs or freeze gels.

Whilst both treatments have benefits in injury rehabilitation, it is important to be clear and correct in the form being used as the wrong treatment could be detrimental to injury rehabilitation.

It is important to remember that both hot and cold can burn, so due care and consideration should be taken in applying both methods.


Check out the video below to hear Jon discuss the hot vs cold concept in a little more detail.

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