What’s best for your aches & pains? It’s hard to get through life without straining a muscle, spraining a ligament, suffering a headache or wrenching your back. And the longer you’re on the planet, the more susceptible you are to arthritis. When something hurts, will ice or heat make it feel better? In this infographic, the experts explain when to use ice, when to use heat and why:
You can apply ice and heat in lots of ways. Our experts generally recommend up to 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off:
- Ice packs: Frozen peas or corn, ice cubes in a baggie or frozen gel pack. You can ice beyond 48 hours, until swelling, tenderness or inflammation are gone.
- Ice massage: Freeze water in a Dixie cup, peel back the top, and massage the tender area until it’s numb. (Best for targeted icing after injury or for areas too awkward for ice packs, like the elbow or heel).
- Cold masks: Place a cold mask, available at drugstores, over your eyes or lay a towel soaked in cold water over your forehead and temples.
- Moist heat: Enjoy a bath, shower, hot tub or whirlpool using warm, not hot, water (92-100°).
- Heat wraps: Drape a heat wrap, available at drugstores, around your neck like a scarf (great for work or travel).
- Heating pads: To avoid burns, remove heating pads if the area becomes uncomfortably warm.
When to use caution
- Paraffin wax treatments supply moist heat but overheating can cause burns. (Treatments are labor-intensive and supplies are pricey, too.)
- Extreme temperatures can damage skin.