Expert advice to treat joint and muscle pain

Twinges. Spasms. Stiffness. Aches. Everyone gets them and it seems everyone has an opinion on how to treat them. Confused about when to use ice or heat on a muscle injury? Here's what you need to know.

Expert advice to treat joint and muscle pain


  • When: More than 48 hours after a sudden injury or before starting an activity that may hurt a weak, frequently injured area.
  • How: Use a heating pad set on low, a washcloth dipped in warm water, a single-use heat pack, or a reusable microwavable hot pack.
  • How long: 20 minutes at a time.
  • Key effects: Heat loosens up tight, injury-prone muscles. Also good for arthritic joints.


  • When: Within 48 hours of a sudden injury or the re-injury of a chronic problem spot.
  • How: Ice cubes in a sealable bag, a bag of frozen peas or corn, or a freezer pack made for icing injuries. Wrap in a small towel to avoid damaging skin.
  • How long: Up to 10 minutes at a time, but stop sooner if your skin turns pink. Typically, you can reapply about 10 minutes after the end of the previous icing session.
  • Key effects: Curtails swelling and reduces pain.
  • Warning: Don't use ice if you have circulation problems or easily damaged skin.

Smart strategies that combine safe ache relief and proven at-home care steps — from ice to heat to gentle exercise — can cut the pain you're feeling now and lower the odds that it'll ever show up again.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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