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Do You Put Heat or Ice on a Pulled Muscle?

By Julia Michelle ; Updated July 27, 2017

Muscle pulls are a common occurence with exercise and overuse. When treating muscle pulls, ice and heat are effective treatments. However, for the most effective relief, they each need to be applied in a specific manner.

Apply Ice First

Ice reduces inflammation, which prevents further tissue damage. Apply ice to the area for up to 15 minutes.

Apply Heat Next

Heat causes inflammation but it also relieves the tightness associated with muscle pulls and encourages blood and nutrient flow to the area. Apply heat to the area for up to 15 minutes.

Alternate Ice and Heat

For best results, alternate between ice and heat to relieve swelling and encourage blood flow. Start with ice for 15 minutes, alternate to heat, then back to ice. Alternate for a little over an hour, making sure to end the session with ice.

Alternatives to Ice and Heat

Topical applications, like Biofreeze and IcyHot, combine the benefits of ice and heat, and require only one application. The initial application cools the area then warms to stimulate blood flow.

Additional Treatments

When treating muscle pulls, always remember the following acronym: RICE. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Ice and heat are only one part of the equation. Resting the muscle allows healing. Elevating the area above the heart enhances blood flow and flushing toxins from the area. Compression prevents inflammation and tissue damage.

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