Ice or Heat - Podiatry Recommendations
To summarize, you should use Ice for Injuries/Inflammation and Heat for Muscle Stiffness/Soreness.
When should you use Heat pack?
Icing helps constrict the blood vessels and thus reduces swelling and pain. Podiatrists recommend Icing for acute injuries, such as sports injuries (ankle sprains), or in inflammatory conditions like Plantar Fasciitis, tendonitis, gout, etc. It is a good idea to apply ice after activity as there is increased blood to the area that is causing swelling. Icing is not recommended in patients with circulatory problems. It should not be performed more than 20 minutes at a time.
When should you use Ice pack?
Heating on the other hand, increases blood supply to the area of concern and relaxes the sore, stiff muscles to provide pain relief. Heating is for more chronic conditions such as arthritis or muscle spasms (lower back pain, neck pain). It is always a good idea to stretch the muscles after applying heat. Heating is not recommended in patients with neuropathy (nerve disorder). Please use caution to prevent burning. Heating can be performed up to 30 minutes with intermittently moving the heat pad around.
Therefore, it is important to not use Heat when there is inflammation, as it could do more harm. There are some grey areas up for debate among Podiatrists on which therapy works best among these two. Ultimately, you are the best judge of what works best for you. If you find one therapy works better over the other, you should use that.