Cold compresses or hot compresses to relieve pain?

Cold compresses for acute pain, inflammation, new trauma, and hot compresses help control chronic pain and non-inflammatory injuries.

Dr. Phan Ngoc Huy, Department of Aesthetic Skin, Ho Chi Minh City Dermatology Hospital, said cold compresses or hot compresses are very effective when suffering from pain, back injuries, knee, joints. Depending on the type of injury, choose the appropriate application form.

Use a cold compress

If you are injured while playing soccer or jogging, you should choose this option. Cold compresses help narrow blood vessels and reduce inflammation, mainly used for acute pain, inflammation and new injuries. A hot compress in this situation can have the opposite effect by increasing swelling and inflammation.

For effective cold compresses, you can use a cold washcloth, cold gel bag or ice wrap before applying it to the affected area. Do not use the cold compress for more than 20 minutes to avoid damaging the tissues.

Use a hot compress

Great for managing chronic pain and non-inflammatory injuries. Hot compresses increase circulation and blood flow to the affected area, thereby reducing muscle pain and relaxation, effective in cases of muscle tension or stiffness. Not recommended after exercise.

Use a hot water bottle, a hot pack or use a towel soaked in warm water to apply it to the affected area. The average temperature to apply is about 40-45 degrees C. It takes about 20 minutes to apply. Avoid applying high temperatures that can easily damage the skin.

Ice packs. Photo: healthgrades

When to use cold compresses and hot compresses

Pain in the upper back

Back pain is a common condition for office workers. Sitting all day in the same position and position can cause tension, twisting, and stiffness in the upper back. To relieve pain, it is recommended to apply cold compresses for about three days, 2-3 times a day for 10-15 minutes each time, then hot compresses to relieve tension and relax muscles.

Low back pain

Low back pain is often the result of overexertion. Tensed muscles decrease blood circulation, so cold and hot compresses can both help relieve pain. Use a cold compress for about three days, then switch to a hot compress to relax your muscles.


For pain like hammering and migraine, cold therapy is best. If the headache is caused by spasticity, hot therapy is more appropriate.

Knee hurts

Knee pain can be caused by sprains, bursitis, tendinitis … If the knee is swollen, apply ice for at least three days to reduce inflammation. Then apply hot compresses to increase mobility.

Dr. Huy recommends that, if you do not relieve pain with hot and cold compresses, you need to see a doctor for a full examination and consultation.

Le Phuong