Apply a Heating Pad or an Ice Pack Immediately After a Minor Injury?
Better choice: ice pack
Timing is everything when you're choosing between heat and ice. The experts agree that for the first 24 to 48 hours of muscle soreness or injury, ice is the way to go.
"A tough workout can cause microscopic tears to the muscle tissue, which cause an inflammatory response and soreness," says Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise. "Ice will quiet things down by controlling the swelling."
Bryant recommends applying a pack for 15 to 20 minutes up to three times a day. If you don't have an ice pack, try a bag of frozen peas or corn.
But… After 48 hours, heat can be soothing, and it promotes blood flow to the area to help start the muscle-repair process. "Soaking in warm water may also provide temporary relief," says Carol E. Torgan, Ph.D., a spokesperson for the American College of Sports Medicine. Combine that with gentle stretching and light exercise to alleviate any stiffness and get the body moving again.