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Heat Or Ice – Which is Better For Sore Muscles?

Heat Or Ice – Which is Better For Sore Muscles?

Recently I had just finished a run with some of my friends, and a relative who was a novice to running, asked me while we were stretching, whether heat or ice was better to treat an inflamed muscle. After each run he had started to stretch his quad, and then apply a heating pad immediately after. He would then proceed to soak in a hot bath.

Should you use heat or ice for a sore and inflamed muscle? He asked. I explained that inflammation is in fact heat, and once a sore muscle has already heated up during running, adding more heat would only result in prolonged inflammation.


So what is good for sore muscles?

Ice is recommended instead. Ice. You do not require a prescription or need to purchase anything, as ice is available nearby in your freezer. Most of the times ice is considered to be the runner’s best friend. Ice has no side effects; it provides soothing relief to the area of inflammation and promotes the quick healing of any sore muscles. Ice can also be used over and over again.


The value of ice becomes apparent to all athletes, especially those runners who suffer at some point in their career, from muscular aches and pains, and require immediate attention.

However, runners who are novices to the sport, usually think that heat is what should be applied to sore muscles. This is a frequently made error, and should be corrected quickly.


Using as simple terms as possible, ice should be your first line of defence for any minor muscular injuries. These include ankle sprains, strains or soreness in the Achilles, common shin, hamstring, calf, foot or soleus.

heat or ice for sore muscles

If after the completion of a difficult race or run, you experience any soreness or pain in your muscles, then ice should be what you use to help alleviate the pain.

Ice is preferred in most cases, and almost never heat. Although heat may feel soothing and comforting to a sore muscle, always opt for ice.


Why Is Ice Better Than Heat?

Here is the reason why. Inflammation usually follows injury to, or straining of a muscle. The pain and swelling occurs, because the blood vessels at the site of the injury expand.

When a bag containing ice is placed on the injured muscle quickly, then the swelling will reduce and ultimately the pain or soreness. Any time that would be lost as a result of the injured muscle, would also be minimised.


Inflammation is actually heat and increases the temperature of the tissue, and is the means by which the body increases circulation to the area that is injured. Ice operates in the opposite way, by reducing inflammation through the prevention of any swelling. It also reduces bruising and pain, by decreasing the flow of blood to the muscle that has sustained the injury.

heat or ice for sore muscles

When you sit and soak your sore and injured muscles in a whirlpool, jacuzzi or hot tub, this is possibly the worst thing you could do, especially if this is immediately following participation in a difficult race, such as a marathon or half marathon. By immersing an injured muscle in hot water, or by placing a heating pad on it, the degree of inflammation will be increased, instead of reduced.


Some elite runners after they have finished their training sessions or races, immerse their legs in a bathtub of ice. They do this because they know that any inflammation resulting from their workout or race can be eliminated by the ice, which prevents swelling and assists in the recovery process. An ice bath is not necessarily comfortable, but 10 minutes in one is the best remedy for sore and tired muscles.


Heat Can Be Useful

The application of heat is useful, but only after four or five days have passed since the injury to the muscle, and after the swelling has reduced. Heat will now increase the circulation and promote healing in the injured area. After the swelling has subsided, the use of heat and ice can be alternated by the runner.


A source of heat can also be used before performing exercises, to warm up a leg muscle, such as the calf or hamstring muscles.

Ice is recommended for use immediately after a muscle has been strained or injured, so that the severity of the injury can be reduced.


So when you are as faced with the question of should you use heat or ice for sore muscles? Always remember, ice should be your selected option over heat, because to the injured runner, ice is definitely their best friend.



Check out our Hyperice Review. An ice pack which can be worn straight after training which uses compression technology and enables a safe and even distribution of cold temperature to the affected area.

Should You Use Heat Or Ice For Sore Muscles?
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Should You Use Heat Or Ice For Sore Muscles?
Should you use heat or ice for sore muscles? Which is more effective? Cryotherapy or heat treatment? ListedFit has the answer.

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