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I've been suffering from Runner's Knee for the last couple of weeks and I've read in some places to put heat on your knee, and other places to put cold (like the above referenced webmd article).

Which is it? Is it one or the other, or should I use cold after I walk or run, and heat before bed, or something else?

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3 Answers 3

While both have their uses (see below), the experts (such as WebMD and Mayo Clinic) suggest only icing in the case of Chondromalacia patella . The Stretching Institute actually advises not to use heat 24 to 72 hours after an injury. Because of these articles, I would use ice only, unless told otherwise by my doctor.

Ice after a run will help relieve swelling and pain.

Heat helps increase blood circulation, bringing additional oxygen and nutrients. In general, heat has been recommended before a workout to loosen the localized area, and before bed to increase blood flow, which brings additional oxygen and nutrients to the localized area.

Other advice included rest, elevation, compression, aspirin, and of course, seeking appropriate medical treatment.

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The most common thing I've ever been told by a doctor for treating such conditions is to alternate heat and cold. Cold reduces swelling and inflammation, heat induces blood flow. If your knee is hurting you should not be exercising. Pain is the body's way of letting us know something is wrong.

If you want to do some moderate exercise, that's ok unless it makes the knee hurt. The best thing you could do is not run, but maybe do some light walking if it doesn't hurt you (at all). Like Greg said, for the purpose of exercise, use heat before and cold after. For every three minutes of heat applied, you should have one minute of cold applied.

For proper healing though, rest is your best friend. If it doesn't get better soon, I would definitely talk to your doctor.

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In general, you want to use heat before exercising and ice after exercising or after sustaining a new acute injury (reference).

Heat tends to increase bloodflow and loosen tissues, but it's not going to help with inflammation. Ice will reduce inflammation, which is going to be a top short-term goal for many sports injuries.

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