What is Better For Knee Pain; Heat or Cold

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Knee pain can have a detrimental effect on our lives. Not only do we experience significant discomfort, but our mobility comes into question. As a result, we aren’t as tempted to join physical activities or test our bodies as we used to be. And for that reason, we hope to find ways to minimize knee pain as much as possible. Therefore, the great debate continues with people asking which is best for knee pain: heat or cold. 

Is Heat or Cold Better for Knee Pain? 

Surprisingly, both heat and cold can be equally beneficial for knee pain. However, the situation dictates which one is best at a given time. That is why it is best to understand the cause of knee pain so that it can be treated most effectively. Then you’ll be able to know whether cold or heat treatments are best. 

How to Treat Your Knee with Ice 

Most people grab ice when they feel discomfort in their knees. Ice is easily accessible and practical. When you apply ice to your knee, the blood vessels in your knee begin to narrow. This results in decreased blood flow in your knee. As a result, it can help relieve swelling, soreness, and inflammation. 

Here are the steps to applying ice to a painful knee.

Prepare your ice pack 

You mustn’t put an ice pack directly on the affected area. Instead, it would be best to wrap the bag in a towel to keep it from irritating the skin. You can choose to use an ice pack, a bag of frozen veggies, or even a bag of crushed ice. Regardless of what you choose, remember to cover it with some fabric before applying it to your hurt knee. 

Give the ice time to work 

It is recommended that you leave an ice pack on a painful knee for at least 20 minutes. Using it for a very short time will decrease the effect of the cold on your knee. 

When are cold treatments best? 

Ice treatments are very effective for injuries, including sprains, strains, tendonitis, and meniscus tears. By icing the affected knee daily, you might be able to see significant improvement after six weeks. However, if there is no improvement after six weeks, see a specialist. 

When should cold treatments be avoided? 

People with Raynaud’s syndrome or diabetic neuropathy should avoid icing their knees because of their sensation and blood flow issues. 

man use hot pack to wrap his knee

How to Treat Your Knee with Heat 

Applying heat to pained knees has the opposite effect of ice. It enlarges the blood vessels, increasing the blood flow in the knee. The steps to treating a painful knee with heat are straightforward and similar to treating a knee with ice. Here are the two steps.

Prepare your heating pad 

Most people prefer to use a heating pad on their painful knees; however, there are special medical heating sachets on the market. When heating anything for knee treatment, you must check the temperature before applying it to the knee. It should feel warm to the touch but never scorching hot. Using something too hot to the knee can be uncomfortable and can irritate the skin. 

Leave the heating pad on for 20 minutes 

Heat also needs time to work on a painful knee. However, it is advised that you don’t leave a heating element on your knee for more than 20 minutes. In fact, keep it on until it becomes uncomfortable, even if it has only been a few minutes. In this case, listening to your body is very important. 

When are heat treatments best? 

Heating treatments on the knees are beneficial when someone has a chronic issue such as arthritis. For example, those suffering from joint pain and stiffness can find great relief using heat treatments. In addition to offering comfort, heat can also boost the knee’s flexibility and motion range if it is administered daily. 

When should heat treatments be avoided? 

Since heat boosts the knee’s blood flow, it is not recommended for cases with inflammation. Therefore, if you have suffered an acute injury, it is best to stick to cold treatment. Additionally, people who have diabetes should always take care when applying warm elements to their skin. Lastly, people who suffer from skin conditions might find that heat elements cause irritation or even rashes. In this case, the treatment should be stopped and avoided. 

Treating a Painful Knee with Cold and Hot Treatments 

An exciting approach to knee treatments is contrast therapy. This involves treating the knee with both hot and cold therapies, and it can be very effective if done correctly. Contrast therapy simply involves heating and icing a joint. This therapy has become increasingly popular among athletes recovering from sporting injuries. In addition, people who have arthritis and other chronic conditions have had great success with contrast therapy. 

How to Treat a Knee With Contrast Therapy 

Since contrast therapy involves exposing the knee to heat and cold, there are various ways to do it. Most people prefer submerging the hurt knee in cold water and later in warm water. This is a cheap and quick way to administer contrast therapy. When using water for your contrast therapy, you must test the temperature of the water before submerging your knee. 

Alternatively, heating pads and ice packs can be used. Regardless of which method you choose, consistency is critical for contrast treatment. By repeating both heat and cold therapies daily, you might be surprised by the results. However, if six weeks have passed without any sign of improvement or an increase in the discomfort of the knee is experienced, it is best to consult a doctor. Unfortunately, some knee injuries require medication. 


A painful knee doesn’t have to mean that your best days of physical activity are behind you. Instead, you can try cold or heat treatments to help relieve your discomfort. However, it is essential to remember that consulting a doctor is always best in the event of a severe knee injury. 

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