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Heat and ice are both effective in relieving pain. How can you decide which to use?
If the pain came suddenly—say you bump your head or twist your ankle—that pain is acute and may be accompanied by swelling. Apply ice. Cold therapy can reduce pain and inflammation and possibly even prevent swelling.
Chronic pain comes gradually and is usually long lasting. It can occur when you overwork a muscle. Or it can be a chronically sore body part—like your elbow. Soak a towel in warm water and apply it to the sore spot, or keep a microwavable heat pack on hand.