Should I use heat or cold for sore muscles

It can be incredibly frustrating when a muscular injury stops you from doing the things you love.

Whether you’ve strained a muscle playing sport or are simply struggling with stiffness and soreness, the only thing on your mind is easing the pain and recovering as quickly as possible.

When trying to relieve the pain, the amount of conflicting information out there can make it difficult to make the right decision.

For example, is a hot water bottle or an ice pack the best thing to ease sore muscles and get you on the road to recovery quicker?

Watch our video on hot and cold treatments here.

Nature of the injury

The first thing to get a proper grip on when choosing between hot or cold therapy to relieve muscular pain is the nature of the injury. Common muscular injuries include:

Strain – A strain occurs when muscle fibres or tendons are stretched or torn. It can happen due to overuse, improper lifting, or sudden movements. Symptoms include pain, swelling, limited range of motion and muscle weakness.

Sprain – A sprain refers to the stretching or tearing of ligaments that connect bones. Ligaments stabilise joints, and sprains commonly occur from sudden twisting or trauma. Symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, instability and difficulty moving the affected joint.

Muscle Cramps – Muscle cramps are sudden, involuntary contractions of one or more muscles. They can occur due to dehydration, muscle fatigue, electrolyte imbalances or nerve abnormalities. Cramps often cause intense pain and temporary muscle hardness.

Contusion – A contusion, or bruise, results from direct trauma or impact to a muscle. It happens when small blood vessels break, causing bleeding and subsequent discolouration. Contusions may cause pain, swelling and localised tenderness.

Hot or Cold?

Cold therapy (Ice): Cold therapy is typically recommended for acute injuries or inflammation. It can help reduce swelling, numb pain and constricts blood vessels, which can help prevent further tissue damage. To help relieve the pain, use ice packs or cold compresses wrapped in a thin cloth (a tea towel is perfect) to the affected area for about 15-20 minutes at a time. Remember to give your skin time to breathe between applications to prevent frostbite.

Heat therapy: Heat therapy is commonly used for chronic muscle soreness or stiffness. It can help increase blood flow, relax muscles, and promote faster healing. To help with the pain, apply a warm compress or heat pad to the affected area for around 20-30 minutes, or you could take a warm bath or shower. Make sure the temperature is comfortable and not too hot to avoid burning yourself.

If you are suffering from muscular pain that is causing you to miss out on your favourite activities, The Oast can help.

Our team are always happy to talk through any issues you might have and find the right treatment for you.

Book an appointment with us today at one of our centres in Sittingbourne or Sheppey and let us help you get back to doing what you love.