Facing Sore Muscles? Try Heat or Cold Therapy to Get Relief

Updated on January 9th, 2020
heat or cold for sore muscles

Heat and cold therapy are recommended very often to get relief from sore muscles. Heat therapy or also known as thermotherapy involves the use of a hot water bottle and heat pads or even a hot bath. On the other hand, cold therapy is also considered effective in treating cold therapy. This therapy is known as cryotherapy in which a bottle filled with cold water is used, or frozen cool pads are used.

Many people also use alternative heat and cold therapy to treat their sore muscles. So if you are confused about whether you should use heat or cold for sore muscles, continue reading to know more.

How Cold Therapy Works And Its Types

cold compress

Cryotherapy or essential cold therapy works by efficiently reducing the blood flow to a particular area which has a sore muscle(1). This can reduce the inflammation around the area significantly and lessen the pain near any joint or a tendon. Cryotherapy can also work by reducing nerve activity by temporarily reducing the nerve activity.

Types – There are different types of cold therapies which you can use around the concerned area. Here are some –

  • Using ice packs or frozen gel packs
  • Apply coolant sprays
  • Take an ice massage
  • Take ice baths

Other kinds of cold therapy include these methods –

  • Cryostretching: This method uses cold to reduce severe muscle spasms while doing stretching.
  • Cryokinetics: In this method of cold treatment, the use of active exercises will be useful for ligament sprains and sores.

[Also Read: Top 10 Essential Oils for Sore Muscles]

How Heat Therapy Works and Its Types

Heat Therapy

Heath therapy or also known as thermotherapy is also an alternative for the treatment of muscle sore. Heat therapy is just the opposite of cold therapy. In this method, heat is used to improve blood circulation to a particular area. This helps to release the pain and soothe the discomfort. As a result, the sore muscles and damaged tissue is healed.

Types – Whether you use heat or cold for sore muscles, there are different ways to execute them. For heat therapy, there are two major types of treatments available –

  • Dry heat: Heat sources like heat pads, and heating packs are required for healing the muscles.
  • Moist heat: In this method, sources like moist heating packs, hot baths, or steamed towels are used to treat the sore muscles.

[Also Read: Natural Remedies for Sore Muscles]

When Should You Avoid Heat and Cold Therapy?

You now know the different ways by which you can use heat or cold for sore muscles. Here are some situations wherein you must avoid using these therapies.

  • Heat Therapy: you should never use heat therapy on an open wound because it can lead to significant risks. Too much heat can also lead to spread of infection from the wound or burn the area. People, who have diabetes, deep vein thrombosis, multiple sclerosis dermatitis, or even vascular diseases, should never use heat therapy. People who have heart problems or suffer from hypertension should consult their doctors first.
  • Cold Therapy: people who are suffering from sensory disorders should avoid cold therapy. This can further stop the nerves from sensing any damage. People who have diabetes are also vulnerable to cryotherapy due to lessened sensitivity. People with poor blood circulation must avoid this technique. Cold therapy used for too long can lead to damage to the skin or nerves of different body parts. If you are hypersensitive to cold, then avoid this therapy.

Which is Best from Heat or Cold for Sore Muscles?

Sore Muscles

There are different techniques of using these therapies as we have mentioned. Both therapies are useful for people with different medical backgrounds. Neither of the methods has been scientifically proven, and using them without considering the risks will pose a severe threat to your body. We have discussed the dangers of using these therapies for people with different disorders(2). Make sure to check them out.

[Read: Home Remedies Sore Muscles]

Muscle sore is a painful disorder that can severely affect your body. Heat or cold for sore muscles is a brilliant way to treat it. Both the therapies have their own set of advantages and risks which you should keep in mind. Individuals who are suffering from chronic pain can use either of these methods and get relief from the pain. However, you should always consult a doctor before trying these.


1. How Long Does It Take for Inflamed Muscles to Heal?

Ans. By using heat or cold therapy, it can take up to 2-3 weeks to fully recover from sore muscles. However, depending on the intensity of the sore muscles, the time required to heal the muscle can vary.

2. When Should I Use Heat or Cold on My Muscles?

Ans. The heat or cold therapy should be applied within 48 hours after the injury. This will help the muscles to relax, and you will be able to get some relief from the pain.

3. How Long Should You Apply Ice on a Pulled Muscle?

Ans. Ice should be applied for 15-20 minutes and not more than that. Using cold for too long can damage the tissues or the nerves in a significant manner.

4. Are Heat and Cold Good for Inflammation?

Ans. Yes. Heat and cold are good ways to treat inflammation. Both therapies can help reduce inflammation, which leads to a reduction in pain.

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