Which is better for relieving tendinitis pain — ice or heat?

Answers from Edward R. Laskowski, M.D.

When you're first injured, ice is a better choice than heat — especially for about the first three days or so. Ice numbs pain and causes blood vessels to constrict, which helps reduce swelling. Stick to icing the area for just 15 to 20 minutes every four to six hours — and make sure that you put a towel or cloth in between the ice pack and your skin.

After the first three days, heat may provide better benefit for chronic tendinitis pain. Heat can increase blood flow to an injury, which may help promote healing. Heat also relaxes muscles, which promotes pain relief.

Tendons are bands of fibrous tissue that connect muscles to bones. Tendons help muscles initiate and control movement in your joints. Tendinitis usually occurs when repetitive motions, stress or repeat injuries irritate a tendon over time. The result is pain and swelling in the tendons around a joint, such as your ankle, elbow or shoulder. Your tendons become less flexible with age, so tendinitis is more common as you get older.

Sept. 07, 2017