A question that comes up in the office often is “do I ice or heat the area of problem?”
If you have an acute condition (think – I just sprained my ankle, or I just hit my thumb with a hammer – ouch!) then use ice. The sooner you can ice the area down the less swelling and tissue damage will occur. For the first 24 hours it is safe to ice on the hour every hour for about 10 minutes. Make sure that there is a damp towel between you and the ice so you don’t get frostbite.
If you have a chronic condition (think – I’ve had this shoulder pain for months) then use heat. Try heat for 10 minutes at a time on the hour every hour. Do not exceed your time with heat, fall asleep with heat on, or it may increase your swelling and therefore increase your pain.
If you are still confused to what to use, ice for 10 minutes at a time, can be used for either an acute or chronic condition.