Cryotherapy vs. Heat Therapy: Which Is Right For You?


Cryotherapy and heat therapy are the common methods used to relieve muscle pain. While both of them are therapies one using cold and the other using heat both of them act to relieve the tension and the aches from the muscles.

However, these can not be used however you like or as per your convenience. Before you undergo them you have to make sure that you are in the right condition to do that. 

How are these different from each other and what should be known to you before you undergo each of them? Let us see.

Cryotherapy vs. Heat Therapy

When the discussion is about cryotherapy vs. heat therapy, you have to know these:

What Is Cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy is subjecting the injured part to extreme coldness just for a few minutes straight after getting injured. When you get injured in a specific body part, more blood flowing to that part can cause swelling. Icing that part reduces the swelling and helps to reduce the intensity of the pain. The injured part will go numb and the soreness will be lowered. 

Different Types Of Cryotherapy

There are different kinds of cryotherapy. They are:

☑️ Ice massage

☑️ Ice packs 

☑️ Ice baths

☑️ Whole-body cryotherapy or cryotherapy chamber (not encouraged unless the injury is extremely serious)

When Can You Do Cryotherapy? 

You can do cryotherapy right after you get injured. An ice pack is kept on the injured part or you will be given an ice massage causing the injured part to freeze and reduce the serenity of the injury. It has to be done in the first 72 hours of the injury or less than that, as that is the time when the injury is still fresh and needed to minimize the further outcomes from the injury 

What Is Heat Therapy?

Heat therapy is also referred to as thermotherapy. It can be defined as treating the muscles by applying heat to them. Thermotherapy will help to increase blood circulation and will increase mobility. It can also prevent the muscles from getting stiff and hard and prevent the chances of pain. 

Heat Therapy

Different Types Of Heat Therapy

There are different kinds of thermotherapy. They are:

☑️ Hot water baths

☑️ Warm compressions

☑️ Paraffin baths

☑️ Infrared red lamps

☑️ Ultrasound therapy

When Can You Do Heat Therapy? 

Heat therapy is not to be done immediately after getting an injury, but later after the first and worst symptoms of the condition calm down. It is suitable for injuries that still make it painful for you after a while from getting injured. 

Cryotherapy vs. Heat Therapy: Side Effects

While both these therapies are useful in helping the muscles to relax and relieve the muscle pain that you have, they have possible side effects too. 

Cryotherapy Side Effects 

The possible side effects of cryotherapy are:

  • If not done properly can make the condition worse
  • Can cause notable discomfort
  • Can result in high blood pressure
  • Might cause frostbite

Heat Therapy Side Effects 

The possible side effects of heat therapy are:

  • If not done properly or when excess heat is allied it can worsen the condition
  • Can result in inflammation
  • Can increase the already present inflammation
  • Might cause burns

The Bottom Line 

Cryotherapy as well as heat therapy are therapies that are effective and can help your injury to heal faster. However, you should be approaching a certified and experienced therapist, as if the person doing the therapy is not a professional it can make your condition worse than how it was when you visited them. 

Now you know that cryotherapy is for immediately after the injury. When you try heat therapy instead of cryotherapy, when the right way is to treat the fresh injury with icing, it can only add to the injury. Keeping ice on the injury can help it calm down but applying heat to a fresh injury can only make it worse. 

Read More:- Physical Therapy For Athletes With Hamstring Injuries: Rehab Secrets


Q. How effective is heat therapy?

Undergoing heat therapy can be useful to help the muscles relax and fasten the healing of the damaged tissues. 

Q. When should cryotherapy not be used?

If you have high blood pressure or have already suffered from a stroke or seizure, then you should not be doing cryotherapy. Also, do not do it if you are pregnant. 

Q. Who should not use heat therapy?

It is not advised to undergo heat therapy if what you have is a fracture, dislocation, or muscle sprain. 

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Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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