This is a question that is often asked, and many people remain confused. Let us help you answer this question!
Ice is beneficial in reducing acute or chronic inflammation in your body, thus reducing pain. Inflammation can occur as a result of any injury and produces swelling. This inflammation can become chronic (meaning it lasts longer than several weeks), and though this is longer than the traditional “ice for the first 24 hours,” ice is still an appropriate choice with chronic inflammation. In addition, ice can help reduce muscle spasms and muscle pain. The recommended application time for ice is 10-15 minutes.
Heat is used to decrease muscle spasms and tension, joint stiffness, or in preparation for stretching or active exercise. The recommended application time for heat is 20 minutes. Though heat feels wonderful due to its muscle relaxant properties, one must be careful as heat may increase any swelling in the area. Just pay close attention. If you feel more relaxed after using heat - great! If you feel stiffer 1-2 hrs after using heat, try switching to ice.