Have you ever gone on a really long hike, or worked out really hard and ended up with sore muscles the next day? What was your solution for getting rid of the soreness? Did you try drinking extra water, take pain medication or just try to not move your sore muscles at all? You may have even tried a heating pad, or ice pack, but did it help? Heat and cold are both good for sore muscles at different times, but how do you know when to use which method? Here are some quick tips for when to use heat and when to use cold.
The short answer is to use cold first, then heat later.
When your muscles are inflamed or swollen, the best way to reduce this inflammation is to apply ice. This reduces the blood flow to the area, causing the swelling to go down. It’s best to apply an ice pack, cold compress, or bag of frozen peas to the swollen area on an off for 3 days. Do this every 4-6 hours in 20 minute intervals. This works best with recent injuries, so try to do it as soon as you feel sore. Applying a cold pack to an old injury could actually make it worse.
After the swelling has gone down, it’s time to help your muscles relax with some heat. You can do this by using a heating pad, or taking a hot bath. Just like with ice, apply heat to the affected area about 3 times a day for 20 minutes each. Bare in mind that heat only helps to relax muscles. It won’t help with infections, scrapes or burns.