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Cold Versus Heat Therapy – Which Should I Use?

Heat therapy and cold therapy are the two most commonly used types of non-invasive pain-relief therapies for joint and muscle pain. What some people don’t realize is that the two therapies are not interchangeable. Each has its use for specific types of problems.

Using heat therapy on a fresh, inflamed injury instead of an ice pack WILL aggravate the problem and only make the pain worse. Using an ice pack on an area affected by muscle strain is not a wise idea, either.

Here is an overview of each type of treatment and what you should be using it for.

Cold Therapy

There is a reason why ice packs are applied to injuries: the cold helps reduce inflammation. When there is swelling, blood flow to the injury must be slowed down in order to bring down the swelling and reduce the pain. Ice therapy is also recommended for breaks or tears that may occur during intense physical activity, in areas such as the shoulder, wrist, upper back, elbow, hip, knee, etc.

The sooner after an injury you use cold therapy, the better. It’s ideal to use an ice pack or any other type of cold treatment as often as possible for 48 hours after the injury, in fifteen to twenty minute intervals.

Active cold compression is also used in conjunction with a sensible medication strategy to help patients recover from surgery. Without proper preparation and treatment, recovering from any type of surgery can be a long process.

Benefits Of Cold Therapy

  • Decreases the amount of recovery time for injuries
  • Reduces the amount of pain you would feel after receiving an injury
  • When applied on the affected area right after injury, the risk of cell death is limited. This helps to prevent long-term problems

Heat Therapy

You should be using heat therapy to deal with chronic pain that does not involve an injury. When you need pain management due to stiff joints, aching joints, back spasms, etc… heating therapy products are ideal. This is because the warmth increases blood flow and oxygen to the affected area to help relieve the pain.

Heat treatments come in two varieties: moist and dry. If you have dry skin, moist heat would probably be the better option, as dry heat may damage skin tissue and make your skin even worse. Moist heat tends to penetrate better.

However, some patients find that dry heat feels better on the skin and is easier to apply. Moist heat comes in forms such as steamed towels, hot baths, moist heating packs, etc. Consult a medical professional if you are unsure which type to use.

Benefits of Heat Therapy

  • Increases blood flow to the affected area when applied properly.
  • Helps to reduce problems such as muscle spasms strained lower back.
  • Promotes the body’s capacity to eliminate toxins in a natural way.
  • Relieves stiff joints by increasing lubrication (synovial fluid), which is partly reliant on the amount of blood that reaches the joints.

When used appropriately, both cold and heat therapy offer many benefits. You just need to make sure that you are using the right type of therapy for your problem. Also, it’s important to use a quality product and not a cheap one.

Read more on heat therapy benefits here

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Phoenix Rehab Physio Services

Phoenix Rehab Group works with specialist physiotherapists and rehab therapists who are highly trained, qualified, experienced and passionate to provide high level of expert care to our patients.


Patients who sustained injuries to their elbows, forearms, hands, wrists (sprains and fractures) and fingers, usually will benefit / require Hand Therapy to

  1. manage and decrease hand pains
  2. improve range of motion, strength and dexterity
  3. increase the function of their hand following injuries or post-operations

Commonly treated hand pain injuries includes


Clinical Pilates is a form of physical exercise that focuses on posture, core stability, balance, control, strength, flexibility and breathing.

It is a system of safe and effective exercises, which meet specific individual needs, to treat a wide range of injuries and conditions.

You may do Pilates as matwork or with the reformer or both, and every session will be customized 100% to your fitness, injury and tolerance.


  • Cupping TCM
  • Auricular Therapy TCM
  • Herbal TCM Medicine & Supplementation


Sports and deep tissue release massage helps to increase nutrient-rich blood flow to tired, tight and tense muscles to accelerate recovery and  shorten downtime / recovery period required.

It also prevents muscles from scar tissue micro-tears (and potential ruptures), and increases muscle performance. Having regular deep tissue and sports massage will keep your muscles healthy and fit with body/movement-confidence.

Read the benefits of regular deep tissue release therapy here.


All our allied health therapists and TCM physicians are fully insured and registered with Allied Health Professions Council (AHPC) and Traditional Chinese Medicine Board (TCMB).

See our entire team here with introductions and their specializations.

At the first session, our specialist physiotherapists will carry out a thorough assessment, helping them to select the most appropriate treatment to help you recover as well as provide treatment in the same session.

Follow up sessions are inline to provide expert treatment for your pain as well as prescribing specific exercises to reduce your risk of re-injury and giving you a long term solution.

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We appreciate you as our valued clients and want you to know that the # 1 way we grow as a clinic / brand is through word of mouth referrals from valued patients like yourself.

We prefer not to rely on advertising - instead, we prefer and appreciate the goodwill and positive reinforcement from patients. When you have the chance, please tell your family, friends and physicians about the positive results and experience you have had in our physio clinics.

book an appointment today
(or check your pains / injuries)

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