One of the most common questions I get is whether to use of ice or heat for an injury. Hopefully this will fill you in on when, but more importantly this will help you with the why.
Acute injuries are those that just happened and you are within 48 hours of that initial injury. This is an icing situation.
1. Never apply ice directly to skin. Apply a moist towel between your skin and the ice. This will transmit it better. You can actually get frost bite if applied directly.
2. Don't ice more then 15 min. The literature is a little vague, so I cut it short for safety. After a certain point, the longer you ice, a reflex reaction takes place (Hunting effect) where the opposite of your goal happens. The blood vessels dilate and more blood is pumped into the injured tissue. This will create more swelling and or bleeding. The exact opposite of what you want. So don't lay on an ice pack for an hour.
3. After 48 hours, I like to switch to ice massage. Make an ice cup and apply massaging strokes to the injury. This will keep the inflammation down, but help to flush out any remaining swelling. This will actually get a little deeper into soft tissue, so the time needed is shorter. Shoot for 5-7 minutes.
4. Shoot to ice once every hour and half. You need to let the tissue warm back up, before icing again.
5. Ice will have a numbing effect on tissue, decreasing the pain threshold. Don't move excessively after icing as you can have a false sense of well being.