Hong Kong Red Cross - Cold Pack or Heating Pad?


Cold Pack or Heating Pad?

Cold Pack or Heating Pad

Cold Pack or Heating Pad?
People always mention “cold pack” and “heating pad”. But when to use which and why? 

First of all, what are their principles behind?


Cold Pack

The main effects of cold pack are to cool down and slow down blood circulation of the affected area; ease congestion and potential swelling. The major purpose is to reduce acute inflammation, pain and swelling. Cold pack can be used to treat acute inflammation and pain (when the affected area(s) is (are) red, swelling, and show(s) pain, and burning symptoms), such as strained or sprained muscles, tendons or ligaments, acute osteoarthritis and gout, etc.


Heating Pad

The effects of heating pad are to raise the temperature and increase blood circulation of the affected area, dilating blood vessels to reduce swelling. The purposes are to reduce chronic inflammation, pain and swelling. Heating pad can be used to treat chronic inflammation and pain (when the affected area(s) has (have) no red or fever symptoms) such as chronic back and neck pain, knee osteoarthritis, muscle weakness or spasms.


First Aid and Nursing Care

The purpose of first aid is to prevent deterioration of injuries in a short time; so cold pack is used in most occasions. But remember, cold pack does not necessarily mean ice application.

The use of heating pad depends on the types of injury and conditions of the patient. For example, we cannot use heating pad for inflammation or open wounds. Generally speaking, heating pad is not an ideal choice in case of injuries. It is not advisable to use heating pad within 72 hours after injury unless instructed by the doctor, physiotherapist or other health care workers. Otherwise, it may hinder the recovery of the affected area(s).


Applying cold pack and heating pad may sound easy, but the decision on which to use actually gives different effects in different cases. Suggestions from physiotherapists are always needed to prevent deterioration of your conditions.