One of the most common questions patients ask is whether to apply ice or heat to a musculoskeletal pain or injury. Most importantly is what feels better and works best for you, however here are a few suggestions.
ICE: Typically, ice is used for acute or new conditions. This stops the bleeding, swelling and bruising. When using ice, always wrap it in a wet towel and never place the ice or ice pack directly on your skin. This could result in an ice burn, that looks and feels exactly like a heat burn. Use the ice on your body for 20 minutes and off for 20 minutes. Do this for approximately 2-3 days.
HEAT: Heat should be used several days following a flare up or with chronic, on-going stiffness. Moist heat is always best. Otherwise, as your body sweats with the dry heat, you will be dehydrating the muscle. Use heat for 20 minutes per hour. Never use heat longer than 20 minutes and please never fall asleep with a heating pad.