Heat Or Cold Therapy: Which Works Best?

May 10, 2022

From pulled muscles to inflammation and chronic pain, heat and cold therapy can help you get some relief. While it might be tempting to grab an ice pack for any aching pain you feel, it’s important to know which situation calls for hot and which for cold therapy. The answer is a little trickier than you might have thought.

Keep reading below to learn everything you need to know about hot, cold, and alternating therapy.

How does heat therapy work?

Heat therapy, or thermotherapy, involves the use of heat to increase blood flow to the affected area. Heated pads, steamed towels, or even a warm bath are all great ways to raise the temperature and help your body recover from the pain.

Heat treatment can reduce joint stiffness and muscle spasms while eliminating lactic acid waste that builds up after intense exercise – 10 to 15 minutes are enough to get the benefits of heat therapy [1].

When to use heat therapy

  • Stiff muscles after exercise
  • Chronic pain, including low back pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Joint stiffness
  • Morning stiffness
  • Warming up tight muscles before activity
  • Arthritis
  • Period pain for women

 Heat pad on wrist to treat joint pain



How does cold therapy work?

On the flip side of the coin, cold therapy, or cryotherapy, works by reducing blood flow to the affected area. There are different ways to apply cold therapy to a particular area, such as ice packs, coolant sprays, ice massage, and ice baths. Some athletes, like Lebron James, even use whole-body cryotherapy to accelerate muscle recovery and stay competitive in the ring. [2]

Cold therapy can reduce inflammation and swelling, leading to accelerated injury recovery. At the same time, cold temperatures can also provide some relief from sharp pain as they reduce the nerve activity around the joints and tendons.

When to use cold therapy

  • Sprains or strains
  • Sore, tired muscles
  • Inflammation
  • Acute injuries

frozen ice packs for cold treatment


What is alternating therapy?

In some cases, alternating heat and cold therapy may be used to reduce inflammation, stimulate circulation, and relax muscles – all in one treatment. As its name suggests, alternating therapy works by alternately applying cold and heat to the affected area. If you’re feeling courageous, another way to perform this is through contrast hydrotherapy – a popular therapeutic intervention that involves immersing yourself in hot water and then in an icy cold bath.

How does contrast hydrotherapy work?

Cold water causes the blood vessels to narrow and contract, while the opposite happens when you immerse yourself in warm water. At the same time, your heart rate changes according to the temperature of the water – cold water speeds up your heart rate while warm water slows it down [3]. These rapid circulatory changes can enhance immunity and improve the management of pain, among many other science-backed benefits.

A guide to cold and heat therapy by Calla by Qualiteam

At Calla by Qualiteam, we believe in the power of cold and heat therapy as a natural way to relieve pain and manage symptoms. We’ll walk you through our product range, explaining which product is suitable for you.


Face surgery product range

During the recovery period after a facelift, a rhinoplasty, or another type of facial plastic surgery, compression garments are used to minimize swelling and bruising. Thanks to their built-in pockets, all of our products for surgeries in the face or head feature hands-free cold treatment to help you manage pain and accelerate healing in the surgical area.

The Facelift Wrap with cold packs eases discomfort and prevents hematoma after cosmetic plastic surgery procedures such as facelift, neck lift, chin and jaw augmentation, and liposuction.


Calla Facelift Wrap with cold packs



The Calla Chin & Cheek compression with cold packs is also for face lift procedures or other procedures that don't require cooling behind the ears.




The Calla Postoperative Eye & Nose Band with cold packs is designed to relieve pain and discomfort after eyelift surgery (blepharoplasty), nose surgery (rhinoplasty), or other interventions in the eye area.


Calla Eye & Nose band for Rhinoplasty or Blepharoplasty



 The Postoperative Ear Band with cold packs is used after ear reconstruction (Otoplasty) to relieve pain and discomfort. 


Otoplasty ear band with cold packs



Postoperative cool band for hair transplantation

Hands free cold treatment of forehead and donor site thanks to the built-in pockets. Prevent swelling and pain in complete relaxation.


Cooling band for hair transplant surgery



Cold & Hot Reusable Gel Pack

Our reusable cold & hot gel pack provides cold and heat therapy in a safety size package. The specific size means it will not remain too hot or too cold for too long to cause damage on the skin. Use it to alleviate pain and swelling from sprains, strains, and contusions by placing it in the fridge for a couple of hours. Alternatively, put it in the microwave for a few minutes to get all the benefits of heat therapy. 


Cryopouch is designed to provide a hands-free cold treatment to relieve incision pain after sternotomy or other surgeries in the chest or abdomen. Made from soft 100% cotton material, Cryopouch is comfortable to wear all day long. It fits on the Thor / Thor 2 Chest Binders and the Calla Compression Pro Abdominal Binder.



Heat and cold therapy is not something new. The affordable, at-home therapy has been used for years to provide relief from a number of different conditions and injuries. Choosing between a hot or cold compress is often the trickiest part of the treatment. As a general rule of thumb, heat is used to heal tight muscles and chronic problems, while cold is used to treat acute injuries like sprains and strains. Watch out for tell-tale signs that signal whether you should be using heat or ice.









Reference List

[1] Uhcw.nhs.uk. 2022.

[2] Phlabs.com. 2022. 

[3] Mooventhan, A, and L Nivethitha. “Scientific evidence-based effects of hydrotherapy on various systems of the body.” North American journal of medical sciences vol. 6,5 (2014): 199-209. doi:10.4103/1947-2714.132935

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