Ice or Heat?

For all athletes, there comes the very confusing question of: Do I use ice or heat on an injury? Here is some information on both hot and cold!

Adapted from an article by O2 Max

You’re practicing marching in the basics block, and all of sudden, you’ve miss-stepped. Maybe the ground was uneven, or maybe you were distracted. Either way, you feel sharp pain and may possibly have twisted your ankle. To get back on the field faster, you need immediate treatment.

Depending on the severity and type of your injury, you should consider seeking the advice of a doctor. There are also some treatments that you should do at home.


When you suffer from a traumatic injury, such as a fall, twist or direct blow, use ice for up to 20 minutes and reapply every two to three hours. Some bleeding occurs in the tissues with any sprain or bruise. Ice reduces this bleeding and minimizes swelling. It will also numb the area and reduce pain.

Do not apply ice for longer than 30 minutes at a time as you receive very little additional benefit and risk damaging your skin.

In the first three to five days after a traumatic injury, you should consider alternating cold and heat for 10 minutes at a time.


In general heat opens up your blood vessels, bringing more blood into the area. Because of these effects, heat should never be used on a new injury, which—as mentioned before— is already bleeding.

If 48 hours has passed since the initial injury, apply heat using a warm damp cloth or other method. Heat increases elasticity of tendons and ligaments as well as relaxes tight joints and muscles. Therefore, it works well to speed recovery and increase flexibility. Heat can also soothe chronic injury and warm the muscles prior to exercise.

Quick Recap

Cold—Meant to take down swelling and used in 20- to 30-minute bursts every two to three hours.

Heat—Meant to increase blood flow and reverse tightness. Do not use if the injury is still bleeding. You should wait at least 48 hours before applying heat.

Use these tips to decrease pain and speed your recovery, so you don’t get left waiting in the stands.

About the Author

Karen Jashinsky is the founder/CEO of O2 MAX, a fitness club for teens, in Santa Monica, Calif. Karen is a certified fitness trainer and earned her MBA from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business in 1996. For more information about O2 MAX, visit

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