There has always been debate on this issue. After 14 years of studying the matter here is my conclusion.
- Always put ice on an injury, 15 minutes per hour as many hours as you like.
- Use heat if you have a old chronic injury.
- When in doubt, ice.
When you first have an injury there is swelling, ice helps the swelling. Use a gel pack or bag of ice cubes and apply to the injures area. Putting it over a shirt of thin towel will help keep the skin from getting too cold. Make sure to limit the ice to 10-15 minutes. More than that can do damage to small capillaries and nerves in the area.
When using heat it must always be moist heat. Adding moisture will prevent local dehydration which increase muscle spasm. Remember, don’t use heat on a new injury.
Dr. Craig Anderson