COVID-19 – Advice from Corydon Physiotherapy

Heat or Cold?  When Should They Be Used? is  your hub for health.

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About Corydon Physiotherapy

We’re a Winnipeg pain therapy and management clinic that will work with you to help heal your pain, offering a number of healing treatments including physiotherapy, massage therapy, acupuncture and much more.

Founded in 1979, we’ve been on the forefront of effective pain solutions for 35+ years. In 1987 we moved to our current 3100 sq. ft. in order to serve our patients better.

Our certified physiotherapists and health staff will make sure your treatment plan is designed specifically for your needs. We use a combination of solutions to help you heal in the best way possible.


Heat or Cold? When Should They Be Used?


The purpose of cold is to decrease pain, swelling, and muscle spasm. It also reduces the amount of tissue damage and inflammation in the injured area.

When to use:

  • Immediately after an injury and every 2 hours for the first 48 to 72 hours
  • During rehabilitation programs. For example, after exercising to prevent pain and inflammation
  • With longstanding overuse or repetitive strain syndromes like tennis elbow or rotator cuff syndromes.
  • Whenever an area is swelling provided that the cause is known.

When not to use (unless under direct supervision of a healthcare professional):

  • Reduced circulation and sensation to an area such as with diabetes or blood vessel disease in a limb.
  • Anemia (low blood iron)
  • Cold hypersensitivity

How to apply cold:

  1. Frozen gel packs: place a wet cloth between the skin and the gel pack and wrap the area with a tensor bandage to secure it. The wet cloth allows for the best cold transmission but it protects the skin against damage. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes. Make sure the entire gel pack with the wet cloth is contacting the skin over the entire area. This is the most recommended method by Corydon Physiotherapy.
  2. Ice packs: crushed ice, cubes or snow wrapped in a wet towel or placed in a ziploc bag and secured with a tensor bandage. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Ice massage: freeze water in a paper cup and rub it directly onto the skin for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Ice bath: immerse the body part (hand, foot/ankle) into ice water for 10-15 minutes.


– Most gel packs can also be heated.

– Many packs come with a sleeve that can be used to fasten around the area, example on the neck or draped over an area, see above picture.

Other cold hard facts:

  • During cold treatment expect to feel a burning sensation, followed by some aching and finally numbness. The area should be pinkish, not white when taking off the cold. White indicates that the cold is too extreme. Check the area after 5-10 minutes to make sure it is not frost biting.
  • If the area is not pinkish then it has not cooled enough and the treatment won’t be effective.
  • After an injury within 72 hours always use cold along with the PRICE principle. Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation of the area.


The purpose of heat is to:

  • Decrease pain
  • Decrease muscle spasm and tension
  • Increase blood circulation and tissue nutrition
  • Help increase the stretching length of muscle, ligament and tendon

When to use:

  • After 48 to 72 hours has passed from an injury
  • Longstanding painful conditions for example: neck and back pain, muscle and joint tightness.
  • Before exercising to loosen up a tight joint or muscle

When not to use:

  • Reduced sensation to an area
  • Open or infected areas
  • Within 72 hours of an injury
  • The injured area is visibly swollen, red, and/or warm

How to apply cold:

  1. Microwavable heat packs: There are many different gel packs or packs filled with “magic” material (beads or grain) that can be heated. We recommend gel packs or the Therabeads ™ brand of heat packs. Therabeads packs are microwaved and give off a moist heat which is more effective than dry heat. Gel packs can be wrapped in a wet towel to give a moist heat. Use for a minimum of 10 minutes. Most gel packs can also be boiled to heat them.
  2. Heated water immersion: hands or feet can be immersed in water heated to 38-42 degrees celcius (100-105 degrees F) for 10-20 minutes.
  3. Electric heating pads: These work best for middle and low back problems as you can lay on them easily. Use for 20 to 30 minutes on low or medium setting. Do not sleep with them on!
  4. The old hot water bottle in the back of your closet can be used to. Wrap it in a towel and apply. Not usually recommended because of the risk of bursting or hot water leaking.

We hope this guide helps, and don’t hesitate to contact us.


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