Ice and heat are common self-treatment modalities. Ice is used to treat acute (new) injuries, especially within 48 hours of injury. Ice is helpful to reduce pain, muscle spasm and swelling. Ice is also used after activity to reduce the onset of soreness and swelling. Heat is used for chronic (older) injuries. Heat increases blood flow, relaxes tissues and reduces muscle spasms. Heat may be used prior to activity.
Both treatments should be used with caution. They can both cause tissue damage if used incorrectly. Heat and ice should be used for 10-15 minutes and the underlying skin should be monitored to ensure that tissue damage is not occurring (burns/frostbite). Caution should be used for both modalities over bony prominences and on tissue with reduced sensation.