Everyone who is active has woken up feeling sore from the previous day’s training session. When the body is overused without adequate recovery time, inflammation or joint pain can occur causing you to find help from a professional or scan the internet for ways to combat the injury. If you search the internet, how do you know if the information is reliable? One site can say to use ice, while another can contradict that and say to use a heating pad. Continue reading to find out more about each method for different situations.

Using cold treatment

After suffering an injury to my low back in 2019, I sought out a chiropractor for help. I was given low back exercises/stretches and was told to do a mix of ice and heat. My injury had gotten better within a couple weeks, but I still wondered what was best for it. Icing an injury can help by reducing swelling and inflammation in the area while heating can do the opposite. A good rule of thumb is icing an injury that is less than 6 weeks old, after that you can add in heat to help with reducing stiffness and range of motion. Adding in strength exercises is also recommended to help bring blood flow and flush out waste products of the injury.

Does heat help with soreness?

So maybe you didn’t get injured, but you woke up and felt sore from your workout the day before. Should you then use a cold or hot pack to help lead you to recovery? Well, the answer isn’t so straight forward. While using a cold pack for acute injuries is the best option, adding one to sore muscles could cause further tightness or cramping. Using hot packs can cause a sense of relief which can have a positive impact on muscle recovery. Applying heat to a sore muscle for 5-20 minutes may not be enough to reach deeper within the muscle belly, but research in this area is limited.

How can this benefit you?

Heating up the muscles, whether it’s applying a hot pack or exercising, can help increase blood flow to that area which can loosen stiff and sore muscles, but is unadvised immediately following an injury. Adding a cold pack can reduce any swelling and inflammation for acute injuries. Alternating between the two is also an option, but ultimately it comes down to which method works best for the individual as well as getting proper sleep and nutrition.

If you want to learn more about other recovery tactics ask your trainer at your next session!

Written By: Matt Lerch