Heat or Ice for Pain in the First 24 Hours of an Injury?

One of the most common and detrimental misconceptions about healing a traumatic injury is the practice of using heat within the first 48 hrs. While heat is beneficial for later healing stages, heat in the acute inflammatory stage is like adding gasoline to the fire.

Use ice during the initial trauma stage (the first 48 – 72hrs). Therapeutic icing shuts down the swelling, heat, pain and stiffness associated with trauma so the healing process can move forward. 

Therapeutic icing to reduce inflammation should be applied at least five times every 24 hours.

An effective therapeutic icing pattern is:

  • 2x the night of the trauma with one hour in between icings
  • 1x the next morning
  • 2x the following night with an hour in between icings

This tends to work well for people who cannot do therapeutic icing during the workday.

Duration of icings depends on the body part:

  • 5 min for a wrist or ankle
  • 10 min for an elbow
  • 15 min for shoulder or knee
  • 20 min for the hip or low back

Photo Credit: Puritēs

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