I have been asked numerous times about how to use ice and heat on injuries. Here are my recommendations...
ICE OR HEAT?
Both heat and ice can help heal an injury by manipulating blood flow.
Ice restricts blood flow, which reduces inflammation and pain. Heat increases circulation, which boosts the supply of oxygen to the site, accelerating the removal of waste products. The trick is knowing when to use each.
AFTER AN INJURY:
ICE - Within the first 24 to 48 hrs, apply for 20 minutes, then remove for 20 minutes. Repeat often. Try to apply ice within 20 minutes of sustaining an injury.
HEAT - 24 hrs. after a minor injury (or 48 hrs. after an acute injury), apply for 20 minutes at a time.
HOW TO APPLY:
ICE - Place a thin towel over your skin for protection, then wrap the ice pack tightly around the area. Or try an ice massage: Freeze a paper cup full of water, tear off the tip rim to expose the ice, and move the ice continuously over the injury.
HEAT - Place the heat pack on top of the injured area. Do not apply body weight. (Don't sit the injured area on top of the heat pack)
ICE - Those with Raynaud's disease or former frostbite sufferers should not use ice on affected body parts.
HEAT - Do not apply heat to injured areas with broken skin.
Use a combination of ice and heat about 48 hrs. after an injury. Either alternate cold and hot packs for 10 minutes, or try a contrast bath. Fill two buckets, one with cold water and some ice, and the other with tolerably hot water. Soak the area in the cold bucket for 2 minutes, then switch to the hot for 2 minutes. By alternating, you keep the swelling down with the cold, while you keep the blood and its nutrients circulating through the injured area with the heat.