An acute injury should always be iced, never heated, whether it?s a muscle strain, a twisted ankle, or pain around a joint. The ice will constrict blood flow in surrounding blood vessels, which reduces swelling at the injury site. The cold will also help to dampen pain. Apply an ice pack for 15 to 20 minutes, about four times daily. Always use ice after a physical activity rather than before.
Commercial ice packs work well, including disposable packs that rely on a chemical reaction for instant cooling, or cold gel packs that can be kept in the freezer and reused. But a homemade ice pack will do the job equally well. A bag of frozen peas works well.
After a few days of icing, applying moist heat to help with the healing process for as long as needed. It reduces stiffness that occurs around an injury site and increases blood flow to healing muscles and joints.
Avoid heat until three to five days after an injury. I prefer a moist heating pad. Heating pads can be left on an injury for 15 or 20 minutes at a time; don?t leave a heating pad on the site while sleeping. Heat can also be helpful for chronic injuries, particularly before an activity, to loosen muscles and increase mobility.