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Repair Guide: Ice vs. Heat

Anyone who's moderately active will eventually twinge a back muscle or injure themselves somehow. There's plenty time and places to call a medic but a vast majority of humans don't have the time or money to do this often.

Anyone who wishes to continue to be active should use basic tools to keep their machine running.

Lucky for us, we can turn to ancient medicine to help us sparingly. Reminder none of us are doctors, but this is all common knowledge.

A great tool to use for very cheap is hydrotherapy.

"Hydrotherapy dates back as far as ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman times when Egyptian royalty bathed in oils and Romans Baths were frequently visited by the citizens of that era, there is also historical evidence of such therapy been used in far-eastern regions such as China and Japan – where hot springs were frequently used for people to bathe in."

What is hydrotherapy? Hydro = water. Therapy = therapy.

So ice or a hot shower is treatment? YES.

When should you use ice? When should you use heat? Is there any time you should use both? Yes.

Let's break this down, real simple like.



You can use ice, cold steak, frozen peas, or your ex-wife's heart. It doesn't matter, just needs to be real cold because:

Ice is for inflammation.

It is better to ice before heat when unsure.

If you know it's nerve pain, you ought to use hot-cold method which will be at the end.

Inflammation is the body's way of healing. It's pumping blood to an area to transport nutrients blah blah blah, it hurts. Throbs even. Inflammation isn't always bad, it heals.

But, when the body becomes too inflamed it stops healing.

The veins and muscles will become so pumped up blood has difficulty reaching the area so healing is slowed, called vasoconstriction. The idea is to get the area to stop swelling and flush with fresh blood.


  • any physical injury within the past 48 hours

  • any swelling, bleeding within tissues, spasms, and sharp pain

  • chronic conditions, including overuse injuries in athletes (such as tendinitis or bursitis)


  • 20 minutes on 40 off

  • Never directly on skin

  • Move the ice round entire area



The idea is to warm, not to burn, so don't stick things in the fire pit.

Heat is for relaxation.

This will relax tissues and stimulates tension release to the affected joint or muscle. Think of the time past the gym where you're not hurt, but boy are you sore.

You can usually tell if it needs heat because it feels amazing right away.

If your muscles are balling up with tension the last thing you would want to do ice it up and cause it to tense up more.


  • As long as you want within reason, stop if uncomfortable at any point.

  • Moist heat when available (even a shower).

  • Do not use heat to treat an acute injury.

  • Do not use heat treatments directly after activity.

  • Never use heat where there is swelling of any kind.

  • Never use heat on broken or damaged skin.

  • Never use heat while sleeping.


HOT-COLD (contrast):

Contrast method means you will be quickly changing tissue temperature from hot to cold and back again.

NEVER use this method on swelling or directly after injury. USE ICE.

A lot of athletes use this method and swear by it, you might as well try it because it's cheap.

People with:

  • plantar fasciitis

  • shin splints

  • carpal tunnel syndrome

  • tennis elbow

  • Achilles tendinitis

Should give this a go.

Most people use hot and cold water. I do it in the shower.

Contrasting should follow the following basic pattern: three to six alternations between heating and cooling. More is probably getting to be a waste of time. Less than three is probably not worth bothering with either.

Increase the intensity of the contrast as you go — hotter hot, colder cold — if practical.

  1. about 2 minutes of heating: comfortably hot

  2. about 1 minute of cooling: cool, not cold (unless you’re tough)

  3. about 2 minutes of heating: hotter!

  4. about 1 minute of cooling: colder!

  5. about 2 minutes of heating: hot as you can handle

  6. about 1 minute of cooling: cold as you can handle

Always end on cold.


Here's a free PDF break down you can download:

Download PDF • 237KB


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