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There are a number of techniques we may use to help relieve pain in the body, and two of the most common and well-known here are ice and heat therapy. For everything from minor aches through many forms of serious pain, these two extremes on the temperature scale can be enormously helpful in reducing discomfort and promoting healing.

Many of our Foundation Chiropractic clients utilize ice and/or heat along with our treatments for many benefits, whether they’re dealing with auto accident injuries like whiplash or many other themes. Our chiropractors and other specialists will often even recommend certain specific usages of ice or heat depending on your injury or pain situation. In this two-part blog series, we’ll go over a few specific injuries and how to use one or both of these approaches, plus some tips on safely and correctly applying these forms of therapy.

Acute Injuries

When we talk about acute injuries, we’re referring to a wide range of recent injuries that cause pain, inflammation and/or swelling. These can be caused by everything from falls or overexertion to car accidents or sports injuries.

For acute injuries, it’s generally best to start with ice therapy, applied for periods of 20-30 minutes at a time. Ice helps reduce inflammation and pain, numbing the area to help you feel better. It’s important not to apply ice for too long at a time, as this can cause tissue damage, so be sure to follow the 20-30 minute rule.

Generally speaking, heat should not be used on acute injuries, as this can actually increase inflammation. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. If you’re dealing with an acute muscle spasm, heat may help relax the muscle and reduce pain. Heat can also be used on very localized areas that feel tight and sore. As with ice, never apply heat for more than 20-30 minutes.

Muscle Strains or Sprains

One area where a combination of ice and heat can be helpful is with muscle strains or sprains. For the first 24-48 hours after the injury, it’s best to use ice to reduce inflammation. After that initial period, you can alternate between ice and heat, using 20 minutes of each at a time. The heat will help relieve any stiffness that’s left in the muscles at this point.


Whether caused by a car accident or any other source of trauma, headaches can often be helped by ice. Apply an ice pack to the back of your neck or your forehead for 15-20 minutes at a time. You may also find that heat is helpful in relieving tension headaches. Try applying a heating pad to your neck or shoulders for 15-20 minutes.

For more on how to utilize ice and heat for pain and injury issues, or to learn about how our chiropractic treatments and other services help in similar areas, speak to the team at Foundation Chiropractic today.