Ice or heat, which one is better? Keep reading to decide

Ice or heat, which one is better? Keep reading to decide

Are you looking for a way to relieve your sore muscles? I myself have spent hundreds of dollars (maybe even thousands) on therapists, prescription medications, and over the counter treatments for my aching, sore muscles. But what if there was a way to relieve my aches and pains in the comfort of my own home and for an affordable price? Helpful tools like the KoreSphere use hot and cold therapy to treat sore muscles.

Hot or Cold?

The underlying question remains, how do you know when to use hot or cold for sore muscles? Is there even a difference? Growing up, I often had my mom give me a bag of ice every time I fell or bumped my knee on a piece of furniture. I was a clumsy kid, so this happened quite often. The relief it brought me was instant and effective.

But as I grew older, I experienced different kinds of pains in all areas of my body. My lower back especially needed some extra care. With this kind of muscle ache, I was always recommended to use heat instead of cold therapy to soothe the pain. In fact, my doctor even informed me that certain injuries and conditions might get worse with cold therapy.

So, what’s the difference? Is heat or ice better for sore muscles, and when should you use them?

When to Use Cold

Using cold therapy to treat sore muscles is also known as cryotherapy. This is typically used immediately after your muscles feel sore. Many athletes and people in training like to use cold therapy after workouts in the form of ice packs, frozen or cold gel packs, ice baths, coolant sprays, and ice massages.

I like to use ice after workouts because it reduces inflammation and swelling, which I usually get around my left knee. If I’m working out a lot (5-6 days a week), I like to submerge in a cold ice bath for sore muscles. I find it really helps, but I can’t stay in for more than ten minutes at a time. I’ve also been incorporating a massage ball as part of my cool down. You can find any generic massage ball online, but the one I find that works best is the KoreSphere. It can be used as a hot or cold massage tool, so it’s perfect for any type of pain or injury.

Other types of cryotherapy:

  • Whole body cryotherapy
  • Partial body cryotherapy
  • Ice pack therapy
  • Instant ice pack therapy
  • Internal cryotherapy

When to Use Hot

Heat for sore muscles is useful when you have pain due to over-using or over exertion. Heat therapy is also known as thermotherapy. Unlike cryotherapy, thermotherapy improves blood flow by increasing the temperature around the heated area. I often wondered if heat is good for sore muscles, and I found that using heat on lingering pain often relieved the symptoms when used on a regular basis.

When I get lower back pain, I usually treat it with heat therapy. Heat really relieves the discomfort I usually feel, whether it comes from a heating pad, heated towel, or my KoreSphere massage ball. Using a pad or towel is great for all over relief, but using a massage ball is best for targeting smaller areas and focusing on massaging any knots.

Does Heat Help Sore Muscles After a Workout?

After a vigorous workout, I often experience muscle pain, which means it’s usually inflamed or swollen. At this time, it's always best to use ice before using any heat. Cryotherapy will reduce the inflammation and swelling, while heat will improve flexibility, movement, and stimulate healthy blood circulation. You could also take a hot or cold bath after workouts depending on the injury.

There has always been a debate about whether to use heat or cold for muscle pain, but there is really no definite answer. Through my own experience, I find that it really depends on your body and the injury. But of course, there are still certain “rules” about using ice or heat:

  • Use cold before heat if you have acute back pain (less than 4 weeks)
  • Use low-level heat for chronic back pain (more than 4 weeks)
  • Use low-level heat consistently for chronic back pain
  • Use cryotherapy immediately after activity and exercise

What to Avoid

Ice and heat therapy are great ways to treat your own muscle pain. It's as easy as opening your freezer and taking out a bag of frozen peas or popping your towel in the microwave for 30 seconds. It costs nothing to you, it’s a natural remedy that doesn’t require medication or prescription and can be done in the comfort of your own home. Although, there are still a few instances when you shouldn’t use heat or cold for muscle pain.

  • If you have an open wound
  • If the area is too painful to withstand ice or heat
  • If you have a wound that is producing any kind of fluid
  • If you have a chronic condition (multiple sclerosis, poor blood circulation, spinal cord injuries, diabetes, arthritis)
  • If you are unsure about your pain, at this time you might want to seek a professional

Final Verdict

Whether you use ice or heat for sore muscles after a workout, or low level heat for acute back pain, you should always listen to your body and how it reacts to how you are treating it. I highly recommend at-home treatments like this because they are fast-acting, relieving, and cost-effective.

Since I have incorporated the KoreSphere into my daily routine, my muscles feel more relaxed, even after a workout. I try to use the massage ball when I wake up, when muscles are the most tight and tense, and before I go to bed when my muscles are sore and overused.

If you feel like you've tried to treat your own pain with hot and cold methods without success, it may be time to pay a visit to your doctor to eliminate any other medical concerns you may have.