Reduce Swelling With Hot or Cold Compresses

Updated on April 16th, 2020

Hot or cold for swelling is one of the best remedies for healing any inflammation in your body. Treating pain with hot or cold packs are incredibly useful for swelling caused by muscle tension or chronic conditions.

Hot or Cold for Swelling:

Hot or Cold for Swelling

Heat Therapy:

Why does it work?

Heat therapy enhances blood flow. Blood flow improves muscle functioning by providing them higher quantities of oxygen and nutrients. It also helps the body get rid of toxins that build up dependent areas. Heat can also relax tense muscles and relieve pain.

Types of Heat Therapy:

Heat therapy can be applied in different ways. They include

  • Moist Heat: Mist heating packs, hot baths, steamed towels.
  • Dry Heat: Sauna, Heating pads, and dry heating packs.

How to Apply Heat Therapy

Heat is a prevalent form of injury prevention and rehab. Heat compresses are fantastic for lessening discomfort and easing the tension in the muscle, particularly if you have long-standing trauma. The most convenient way to use heat therapy is a heating pad. They are available at the local stores.

  • Apply heat for 10-15 minutes to the injured area. You can also do this before and after exercise or sports practice. This will keep you fresh and assist you in healing in time for the next training session (1).
  • Other ways of applying heat to your body can be safe hot water bottles, wet towels, warm compresses, and heat wrap. It is also done by dipping the body part in a hot bath, keeping it between 94 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit. Heated paraffin wax is also used.
  • Lastly, heating patches are also available for this purpose.
  • You can also use wet towels and microwaveable gel pads for heat therapy.

The conditions in which you can use heating pads are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, tendonitis, or chronic irritation and relieving pain or spasms relating to neck or back injury, including the lower back. It can also be used to warm up stiff muscles before strenuous activity.

[Read: Reduce Swelling with Natural Treatments]

When Not to Use:

If you have pre-existing conditions, heat therapy is best avoided. The conditions include

  • Multiple Sceloris
  • Dermatitis
  • Diabetes

Cold Therapy:

Hot or Cold for swelling

Why does it work?

On the other hand, cold therapy slows it down. This reduces the chance of injuries like cramps, spasms, and inflammation. It decreases the rate of blood flowing to a body part that aids in eliminating swelling. It also reduces the perception of pain. Cold therapy is useful for swelling caused by acute injuries or trauma.

Cold Therapy aids in relieving pain immediately by acting as a local anesthetic, numbing out the body part. This inhibits the transmission of pain signals to the brain (2). It reduces blood flow to the injured part, reducing the risk of tissue damage. It is most effective within 48 hours of trauma. Different types of cryotherapy are ice tubs, a cold compress or a chemical cold pack, soaking in cold water and massage with an ice cube.

Types of Heat Therapy:

Cold Therapy can be applied in different ways. They include

  • Ice Massages
  • Coolant Sprays
  • Ice Baths
  • Cryogenic freezing chambers
  • Chemical Cold Packs

The proper way is to combine cold therapy with other procedures.

  • Ice packs are applied to the part of the body for 15-20 minutes, two to three times a day.
  • Apply pressure to the area.
  • Place your feet on someplace higher than your body or elevate the body part that is in pain.
  • Over-the-counter medicines can help ease discomfort.
  • You might want to try stretching and strengthening exercise

It is used for Runner’s knee, tendonitis, sprains, pain, and swelling after a hip or knee replacement, swelling under a cast or a splint and lower back pain.

Side effects/precautions

Hot and cold packs can make your life easier at so many levels. However, there are some precautionary measures that you need to take, or you will end up in a worse condition for more extended periods.

  • You mustn’t apply heat or cold directly to your skin. You might burn yourself or get frostbite.
  • Keep a sheet between your skin and the heat/cold.
  • Do not apply for any longer than 20 minutes. This could result in nerve injury that can get you paralyzed.
  • Don’t use ice packs before training.
  • Stop if these treatments (Heat/Cold Therapy) make the pain or discomfort worse and consult a doctor.

[Read: Cure Swelling Using Epsom Salt]


Hot or cold therapy is the most effective remedy for healing any swelling in your body. It enhances the blood flow that leads to improvement in muscle functioning with increased replenishment. It also assists the body in removing wastes. Heat can also loosen tense muscles and alleviate pain. Cold remedy restricts blood flow reducing the chance of trauma. It also lessens the feeling of pain by numbing out the body part. Understanding when to use either of the two compresses for your problem would significantly assist you to deal with your suffering and distress.

Also Read:

Simple Remedies To Reduce Swelling in Hands

Home Remedies To Reduce Swelling in Feet


1. Is It Right to Use a Hot or Cold Pack for Swelling Ankle?

Yes, it is one of the best ways to relieve ankle swelling. It can reduce the edema and pain by multiple mechanisms mentioned above.

2. How Effective Cryotherapy After Workouts?

It can change your entire mantra of physical training. Cold showers and ice packs can be beneficial right after working out since your muscle fibers are torn and sore. It relieves pain and gets you ready to go about your day.

3. What If I Apply Cold Packs Directly to My Skin?

It can be very dangerous as you can get frostbite. You need to place a rag between your body and the pack.

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