I work for a chiropractic office and the rule of thumb for any injury of any kind is always ice. Heat can relax sore muscles and ease arthritic joint pain, but it can also increase swelling and pain at the site of an injury. If you aren't sure if it's a sore muscle or a strained muscle, ice it. We have to be careful because my DD has minor arthritis so we're tempted to use heat more than we should. We've used a heating pad on Sever's thinking it was just arthritis in the joint and it felt much worse the next day. We always try to err on the side of ice.
Ice for acute injuries to lessen swelling and reduce pain. Heat for everything else, especially chronic pain/soreness, to increase blood flow and speed healing. Alternating ice/heat (contrasting therapy) can be helpful as well.
Everything mentioned above is sound. With four children actively in sports and constant injuries, I've heard and been advised of everything. In the end, it still is confusing to me. As l.c.o., states swelling and inflammation is your body's way of healing itself. So icing can halt healing but it also reduces inflammation and helps with pain control. Heat promotes blood flow to the injured area which promotes healing but heat is also not been known to be recommended when swelling is involved because swelling is caused by bleeding in the tissue and heat just draws more blood to the area. RICE is always a standard by doctors. We've also done therapeutic contrasting therapy (ice, heat and then ice again) which can allegedly speed recovery. Generally, every doctor we've seen advises ice as a treatment modality immediately after an injury for its ability to reduce inflammation and swelling in the injured area and for its pain relieving properties. Superficial heat therapy is commonly used in physical therapy practices in the non-acute injury phase (after first 72 hours of injury) as a pain relieving and muscle relaxing treatment modality and is also usually recommended for chronic injuries. Superficial heat can also be effective in pain relief because it increases blood flow which warms the underlying muscles. I've deduced that ice for acute injuries, the first 48 hours and then heat may be applied after 72 hours. The only common denominator I've found is rest and elevation.
we always use a contrast treatment with water for most all injuries. cold hot cold hot cold then soak in hot with gentle movements. Also swear by castor oil. Slather in caster oil and cover in a wool sock before bed. Helps lymph system to flush out all the damaged cells. We have had great success with quick recoveries. Two ankle sprains and a knee sprain.
Her chiro/manual therapist and her PT both agree with our protocol.
I recommend this. It's focus is on ankles but theories apply across the board. - HEM Ankle Rehab
We usually do heat for general soreness or muscle injuries and ice for things that tend to swell such as sprains etc. Otherwise alternating 5 or so minutes of each seems to bring the best of both worlds since heat promotes blood flow and cold reduces inflammation.