Should I Use Cold or Hot Therapy for Foot Pain?

February 1, 2023 • • foot carefoot pain
Should I Use Cold or Hot Therapy for Foot Pain?

Cold or hot therapy can make your foot pain go away. But which one should you choose?

Whether it’s from wearing uncomfortable shoes for too long or the result of an injury, you’ll likely experience occasional foot pain. Since walking worsens the pain, you’ll want to get relief as fast as possible, and you’ve heard that cold or hot therapy can cure foot pain. So which one should you choose?

Whether you opt for cold or hot therapy for your foot pain depends on your foot’s injury or condition. In general, cold therapy works to reduce pain and swelling. Hot therapy is a good choice for loosening up stiff and sore muscles. Read on for general guidelines on when to use cold or hot therapy for foot pain.

Cold vs. hot therapy: What you need to know

Cold or hot therapy can immediately bring down the pain and stiffness. Either treatment must be done safely to avoid further injury. Here’s a rundown of what to use and when:

Cold therapy

What it does: Applying cold restricts blood flow, which can lessen swelling and inflammation. The cold also numbs the nerves and thereby stops the pain. Because blood flow is reduced, any blood loss from an acute injury will be minimized.

When to use it: Acute injuries such as a sprained ankle, ligament tear, or fracture can be treated initially with cold therapy. Plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the band of tissue running along the bottom of the foot, benefits from cold therapy, too. Cold therapy is also recommended to treat Achilles tendonitis and metatarsalgia, a pain in the ball of the foot.

How to use it. Cold therapy can be applied with an ice or gel pack or frozen water bottle. Just be sure there is a layer of cloth between the cold application and your skin. You can soak your feet in a cold, but not freezing, ice bath. Special cold therapy socks are another option. Apply the cold for about 20 minutes several times a day. Note that diabetes patients should avoid cold therapy.

Heat therapy

What it does:  Heat unlocks stiff and sore muscles by rushing blood to the injured area. The extra boost of blood can promote healing by increasing the amount of nutrients and oxygen in the muscles. Heat can also reduce pain.

When to use it: Heat therapy is the right choice if the muscles and joints in your feet are chronically stiff and sore. Applying heat will make the joints and muscles more flexible and mobile. Arthritis and muscle spasms are two conditions heat therapy can help.

How to use it. Warm up your feet with a heating pad or towel, but make sure the heat never touches your skin directly. You can also submerge your foot in a warm (but never scalding hot) bath. Twenty minutes of heat therapy a few times daily will relieve pain and stiffness. Heat therapy is not recommended for people with high blood pressure, and avoid applying heat to an open sore.

Hot or cold therapy offers immediate relief from pain and stiffness. But if the foot pain lingers, see a podiatrist for a proper diagnosis. You may need treatment beyond hot or cold therapy.

See the foot specialists

Foot pain can disrupt daily life, but you don’t have to live with it! The specialists at Alamitos-Seal Beach Podiatry Group have years of experience in treating all types of foot conditions. Contact us today and make an appointment at one of our two locations.

Request an Appointment

Fill out the form below to reach Alamitos – Seal Beach Podiatry Group, or call Los Alamitos: (562) 203-6151 or Seal Beach: (562) 242-1559 for immediate assistance.

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