One of the biggest questions I get asked is… whether you should ice or heat when experiencing pain or stiffness. I always, use the rule that simplifies this and that is when you have pain that on a scale of 1 to 10 that is more than 3, you should ice anything less than that you can use heat.
Ice (Cryotherapy) has many benefits which include decreasing swelling, inflammation, muscle spasms and pain reduction along with initializing the tissue healing process. Heat increases blood flow, increases range of motion, reduces muscle tightness/stiffness and spasm and is not warranted when there is a lot of swelling and inflammation. Most people choose heat and the reason for that is because heat feels better in general most people don't like ice. I tell the story of my mom Jan, who still to this day, does not like using ice even when she has a tennis injury or a flareup of back pain. She chooses to use heat instead which complicates the situation making the pain much worse even though it does feel better at the time within a half hour her pain is worse and stiffness has increased severely.
So, Dr. Joe what is my recommendation initial injuries and healing processes? I recommend a minimum of 4 to 5 times of ice therapy for approximately 15 minutes or more for the first week of an injury. Research shows that the colder you can get the injured area the more profound healing that does occur. The colder the ice temperature (Not 3 layers of towels) that penetrates the tissues far beyond just the skin surface and into spinal or joints and paraspinal musculature amplifies the response of ice therapy.
So as the song back when I was in high school goes, I would Ice Ice Baby instead of heat in order to speed the healing process, reduce pain and improve the possibilities for a stronger and better-quality recovery and reduced flareups in the future.