Tendonitis pain: should I apply heat or ice? (2023)

What's better for relieving tendon sheath pain - ice or heat?

answers fromEdward R. Laskowski, MD

Tendons are tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect muscles to bones. Tendonitis usually occurs when repetitive motion, stress, or repeated injury irritates a tendon over time. Commonly affected joints are shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees and heels.

If you suffer a sudden injury to a tendon, ice can reduce pain and swelling. Cool the area for 15 to 20 minutes every 4 to 6 hours - and place a towel or washcloth between the ice pack and the skin.

Heat may be most helpful for chronic tendon pain, often referred to as tendinopathy or tendinosis. Heat can increase blood flow, which can promote tendon healing. Heat also relaxes muscles, which can reduce pain.

(Video) Is Ice Or Heat Better For Achilles Tendonitis?

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December 04, 2021

  1. Goldman L. et al., eds. Bursitis, tendinitis and other periarticular diseases. In: Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Elsevier; 2020. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  2. Scott A et al. Overview of the treatment of overuse (persistent) tendinopathy. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  3. tendonitis and tenosynovitis. Professional version of the Merck Handbook. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/musculoskeletal-and-connective-tissue-disorders/bursa,-muscle,-and-tendon-disorders/tendinitis-and-tenosynovitis?query=tendinitis. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  4. tendinitis. Arthritis Foundation. https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/tendinitis. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  5. Tendonitis: in depth. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/tendinitis/advanced. Retrieved October 26, 2021.
  6. Laskowski ER (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. October 19, 26,

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