Ouch!! Whether you have sore muscles or a twisted ankle, your body is telling you that something needs a little TLC. But what should you use, an ice pack or warm compress? It can be confusing sometimes whether to use heat or cold. Here are some facts that can help you decide.

When muscles work, chemical byproducts are produced that need to be eliminated. When exercise is very intense, there may not be enough blood flow to eliminate all the chemicals. It is the accumulation of chemicals that cause muscle ache. Because the blood supply helps eliminate these chemicals, use heat to relieve sore muscles after exercise.

A heating pad or warm towel may be useful when muscles are tight because it can help resolve inflammation, lessen joint stiffness, and reduce muscle spasm. It is important to remember to protect any type of heating pad device from coming in direct contact with the skin to avoid burns.

When an injury or inflammation such as tendonitis or bursitis occurs, tissues are damaged. Cold application numbs the affected area, which can ease pain and tenderness. Cold also can reduce bleeding, swelling and inflammation.

A cold compress can be made by dampening a towel with cold water, folding and placing it in a sealable bag, and putting it in the freezer for 15 minutes. An ice pack can be made by putting ice in a sealable bag, filling the bag partially with water, and then sealing the bag and squeezing the air out of it. The bag should be wrapped in a damp towel before being applied to the affected area.

For more information about how to treat common ligament and muscle injuries, take the free, online sprains and strains quiz on the Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake website at

Doctors Hospital at White Rock Lake
214 324-6100

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