Ah yes the classic question that I am literally asked multiple times a day. Here is the general recommendation.
Heat is best for muscle strains and aches. Meaning if you were working in the garden and your hamstrings hurt from bending over and digging or your arms are sore from pulling weeds. Even your shoulders that ache, as in your trapezius muscles, the muscle between your neck and shoulder, that is a good time for heat. These muscles often get sore with raking and carrying type activities. A hot shower, bath or even hot tub work wonderfully. A heating pad for 15 minutes can help to, and the pain should alleviate in a few days.
Ice is best for joint and nerve pain. If you have pain in a joint or along your spine especially with radiating pain. Meaning you have pain in your neck that limits your range of motion then when you move it shoots down your arm or into your upper back. Or similarly in your low back into your legs or buttocks. Ice will decrease the swelling around the joint that is caused by overuse or injury as well as alleviate pressure on the nerve. Ice should be used for 20 minute intervals and never applied directly to the skin. You can cause a cold burn, much like a heat burn.
Of course you should be adjusted in both of these situations too. Your body is a machine that needs maintained. Did you change the oil in your lawn mower this year? You should have! Just the same you should get your body tuned up and ready for a fun filled spring and summer. Life is a lot more fun when you don’t hurt!
See you soon!