October 24, 2017

Ask the Doctor – Heat vs. Ice when Treating Sore Muscles

Anna Lopez-Stratton, MD, of Mission Community Primary Care Haywood, a Service of Transylvania Regional Hospital, answers this common question about treating sore muscles.

Q: For sore muscles, when should I apply heat vs. cold?

A: Ice is a good choice to reduce pain and inflammation in acute injuries. Examples of such injuries might include an ankle sprain, a pulled hamstring or sudden pulled back muscle.

Ice helps to decrease blood flow to the area to reduce swelling and inflammation. Switch to heat after 48 hours.

In contrast, heat can help with sore, achy muscles, such as after exercise or for chronic backaches.

Neither heat nor ice should be applied directly to the skin. Use a thin cloth to protect the skin.

Treatment should last about 20 minutes, three to four times per day.


Dr. Lopez-Stratton sees patients at Mission Community Primary Care Haywood, a Service of Transylvania Regional Hospital. To schedule an appointment, call (828) 456-9006.

To find a Mission primary care provider near you, call (828) 213-3222 or request an appointment at mission-health.org/needadoc.

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