A question regularly asked is “when should I use heat or ice?”…well, as a general rule ice is used with acute/recent injuries and heat can be used with chronic/long-term injuries…
Ice therapy (cryotherapy) can relieve symptoms caused by sprains, strains, bruises and tendinitis – it can virtually be used in any situation in which superficial tissues are inflamed by trauma. It can also assist in recovery from repetitive strain injuries such as tendinitis, and it works by reducing blow flow to the injured areas, thus reducing inflammation and swelling that causes pain. Ice should be applied immediately after your injury, for 15 minutes every two hours, over the first 48 hours (also keep in mind the RICE rule with acute injuries – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).
Heat therapy works by improving circulation and blood flow to a particular area due to increased temperature. Increasing the temperature of the afflicted area even slightly can soothe discomfort and increase muscle flexibility. Heat therapy can relax and soothe muscles and heal damaged tissue. Heat can be used before (not after) activities that irritate chronic injuries such as muscle strains and overuse injuries, and can help loosen tissues and relax injured areas. Heat should not be applied for longer than 20 minutes at a time.
Of course, please consult your physiotherapist for professional opinion and management of your injury.