Ice V Heat – Which Is Better?

When it comes to managing pain and injury, which do you assume? Is it heat or ice that you reach for?

Using ice “cryotherapy” and heat “thermotherapy” are fantastic self-care options that are low in cost and in most cases safe to use. It is important to note that whilst neither is a strong drug, they may support minor pain management and in some cases assist in circulation and swelling reduction. As usual, any injury that is causing the individual discomfort should be assessed by a physiotherapist or GP.

Ice should be used on “fresh” injuries, those that are seemingly swollen, red and inflamed and stem from ligament sprains, muscle strains and even tendinitis. Ice primarily helps to numb the area, and prevent the injury swelling too much. Swelling, in itself, is your body limiting movement and therefore is not the worst thing to happen for recovery. Scientists have argued that ice is redundant, and favour other options instead; however for its cost-effective and the minor improvement it can make, ice is still worth the use.

COOL TIP: There should always be a barrier between skin and ice, whether it’s a sock, a tea-towel, or tape to ensure the skin is not burnt! Using cryotherapy, the “RICER” technique is best – Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. Referral.

Heat should be used on aches and pains, to help sooth stress and anxiety and works similarly to ice from the perspective of assisting in management, rather than curing. Heat is never an option for fresh injuries, as it causes the blood vessels to dilate, in short, your swelling will be getting a whole lot worse and usually the pain with it. This same dilation can be great for supporting recovery in more fibrous tissues such as ligaments, however this comes later. Heat is usually the go-to option for lower back pain too, due to the limited times that lower-back-pain is actually a fresh injury. If in doubt with lower back-pain, seek professional advice.

HOT TIP: A warm bath or shower can be the perfect remedy for an aching body after a long day at work, and a heat pack can be a convenient option for throughout the day when necessary.

Finally, if the ice or heat you are applying is increasing the pain, stop immediately and seek medical advice. It is not uncommon for injuries to be assumed as less than they actually are, and seeking support from a professional is always the safest form of injury assessment and management.


If you’d like some further information or have an injury concern, you can contact Progressive Sports & Spinal Physiotherapy today by either calling on (02) 4721 7798, emailing or clicking here to book online for a thorough initial assessment.

Suzanne graduated from Western Sydney University with a Bachelor of Health Science (Sports and Exercise Science) in 2015. She then went on to continue her studies at Macquarie University graduating from the Doctor of Physiotherapy post-graduate degree in June 2019.

Since graduating, Suzanne has worked in the local Penrith area in both private practice and Sports Physiotherapy. Suzanne has worked with sporting teams including Penrith District Netball Association, Mt Druitt Rangers (NPL), Penrith Valley Figure Skating Club, and local dance and cheer schools. 

Suzanne has a particular interest in working with artistic athletes including cheerleaders and dancers. She has a professional background in both cheer and dance and has previously worked as both a cheer coach and dance teacher. Suzanne’s previous experiences are an invaluable resource to her as a physiotherapist, as she has a thorough understanding of the level of physical fitness and skill acquisition that these athletes must have in order to be successful on stage and in competition.

Suzanne’s other areas of clinical interest reside in lower limb musculoskeletal injuries, spinal pathologies and women’s health.

Nathanial graduated as a physiotherapist in 2012 which saw him work in private practice and hospital settings gaining experience in all areas of physiotherapy including hand therapy, splinting/casting, pre/post-operative care, Men’s Health and general musculoskeletal, occupational and sports physiotherapy. Since then he has gone on to complete further studies in physiotherapy enabling him to be the only dual titled Musculoskeletal, Sports and Exercise Physiotherapist in Penrith.

Nathanial has a strong background in sports physiotherapy achieving accreditation with NSWIS as a service provider and working with many elite sports teams.

Nathanial has a particular interest in working with elite athletes, complex cases and in particular assessment and management of knee, hip and shoulder pain.

Andrea graduated from the Australian Catholic University completing her Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science in 2018 and Master’s of Clinical Exercise Physiology in 2020. After graduating she attained accreditation with ESSA as an Exercise Physiologist.

During her studies she gained clinical experience in both hospital and private practice settings, working in the cardiac rehabilitation program, heart failure service and mental health unit at Nepean Hospital. And at the ACU Exercise and Lifestyle Clinic working with clients with neurological conditions, cancer and chronic musculoskeletal injuries.

Since graduating, Andrea enjoys working with a variety of clients. She has a particular interest in treating musculoskeletal injuries and neurological conditions, striving to help people increase their functional capacity to get them back to work, sport or the things they love doing.