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Peak Physical Therapy
Helping you every step of the way


BACK TO SCHOOL-SEASON QUIZ: Which is better, hot or cold?

 September is upon us, kids are back to school and new sports are starting.  New injuries, aches and pains are inevitable, so….Hot versus Cold, Ice versus Heat…. which to choose, when, and for what?!  We hear this common question every day, so we at Peak have decided to tackle this subject in our monthly newsletter! 

 Many of us know, a new injury or pain can feel better with applying ice or heat…or both!   But the questions remain: when should we be using hot or cold, and in which situation? 

 Hot vs. Cold: What Is the Difference?

  Heat Therapy 

Heat treatments are typically used for pain relief and muscle relaxation. Applying heat increases the temperature of the problematic area.  This opens up the blood vessels and increases circulation. Better circulation will bring more oxygen and nutrients to the area being treated, which will help speed up the healing process.   

 Cold Therapy 

Cold treatments are most commonly used for new injuries that are inflamed and swollen. Reducing the temperature of the injured area allows the blood vessels to tighten.  This helps to decrease the amount of blood traveling to the already swollen and inflamed area, which helps to control the healing process. 

 When to Warm Up and When to Cool Down?

When deciding to use hot or cold, just remember: heat increases blood flow and cold decreases blood flow. Patients who have arthritis, muscle spasms, and stiff joints would benefit from heat.  New injuries (e.g. sprained ankle, broken arm, recently strained muscles) or injuries that have swelling and inflammation respond best to cold. 

 Safety First! 

To use hot and cold treatments safely, follow these general rules:


Never put ice directly on skin (this would damage the skin), instead put the ice on a damp towel or cloth. A good rule of thumb is to apply cold for no more than 15 minutes for swelling, and no more than 8 minutes for pain relief.  In between treatments, allow 30 minutes for skin to return to a normal temperature.


Never apply a heat source directly to the skin.  Use a moist cloth as a barrier, and add dry towels as needed. If an electric heat source is used, make sure to set the timer or automatic shut-off.  Heat applied for too long can result in a burn, so only use heat up to 20 minutes.  Allow 30 minutes between applications to allow skin to return to normal temperature.

 Don’t forget, the above guidelines are general; hot and cold therapy rules will vary per person, and specifics must be considered (i.e. age, area of injury, thickness of skin). 

How Your Physiotherapist Can Help

Your physiotherapist will know which treatment to use for your injury.  Also, your physiotherapist will be able to guide you in the correct and safe ways to administer these convenient treatments at home.  Be sure to contact Peak Physical Therapy today to find out how hot and cold can help you!  

 To Our New Staff!

 Peak Physical Therapy is proud to announce the addition of 2 new staff members!  Kelsey is our Athletic Therapist who graduated from Mount Royal University, and Michelle is our new Kinesiologist who just graduated from the University of Lethbridge.  We look forward to introducing them to you, and having our two new talented team members share their knowledge with you!

 Fall Reading Time: New Articles!

Peak Physical Therapy has just added 20 new articles to our patient resource library!  Check out the links below: 

 1.  Cheerleading (new addition to our sports section) 

 2.  New Patient Guides


Hand Conditions

Pediatric Conditions


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