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

Answer From Edward R. Laskowski, M.D.

Tendons are tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect muscles to bone. Tendinitis usually occurs when repetitive motions, stress or repeat injuries irritate a tendon over time. Commonly affected joints include the shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees and heels.

If you experience a sudden injury to a tendon, ice can reduce pain and swelling. Ice the area for 15 to 20 minutes every 4 to 6 hours — and put a towel or cloth between the ice pack and your skin.

Heat may be more helpful for chronic tendon pain, often called tendinopathy or tendinosis. Heat can increase blood flow, which may help promote healing of the tendon. Heat also relaxes muscles, which can relieve pain.

Dec. 04, 2021