Should You Use Heat, Ice, or Both For Foot or Leg Injuries?

When some patients suffer a muscle strain or sprain, they wonder whether it’s best to ice it or apply heat. American Foot and Leg Specialists, who serve the south Atlanta metro area, have different answers for different conditions. But first, it’s a good idea to know what the purpose of ice and heat is when it comes to certain injuries.


Ice compresses are for easing tissues that are inflamed, hot and injured. Inflammation indicates that capillaries that serve the tissues have been disrupted and are now leaking blood and other fluids into the area. This causes the inflammation. The remedy for this is the application of ice. Heat, which can cause already broken blood vessels to dilate, will make the condition far more painful than it need be.

Ice is also useful for easing pain after injections of corticosteroids or after injection of dermal fillers. Ice should never be placed directly on the skin, however. 


Heat is applied to soothe muscles spasms. It helps to increase blood circulation and shouldn’t be used on tissue that’s suffering from inflammation. Ice shouldn’t be used to treat muscle spasms because it can make them worse.

Many sports therapists also advise both amateur and professional athletes to apply heat to healing muscles just before a work out. This will relax the muscles, make the work out easier and reduce the potential for pulled muscles or further damage to the tissue.  As a chunk of ice shouldn’t be placed directly on the skin, a hot compress shouldn’t be placed directly on the skin if it’s hot enough to scald.

Heat and Ice in Combination

Ice and heat are indicated when there’s an injury to a muscle. That means that the muscle is actually torn or ruptured as opposed to inflamed. According to the American Foot and Leg Specialists of Atlanta, a muscle injury should first be treated with ice until the inflammation is eased. Then, heat can be applied.

If you are a resident of the south Atlanta area suffering from such conditions as plantar fasciitis, sprains and strains, injuries to the Achilles tendon or other sports injuries, don’t hesitate to get in touch with American Foot and Leg Specialists, serving the south Atlanta metro area for over 40 years. Give them a call at (404) 363-9944 for a consultation.