Along with blisters and sprains, muscle strains are among the most common afflictions for active persons in the outdoors. Common medical dogma is to use the “RICE” approach for sprains and strains of—rest, ice (application of cold), compression, and elevation.
This is more applicable to sprains (e.g., an ankle sprain) than to strains, because the sprained body part is usually a limb (ankle, knee, wrist)
that is amenable to this approach. Strains more often involve larger muscle
groups, such as those in the back, chest, thigh or abdomen, or difficult-to-approach areas, such as the neck or groin.
Prevailing theory for treatment of a muscle strain is that one applies external cold for 24 to 48 hours, and discontinues it after 72 hours, at which time one begins application of external heat. The rationale is
that swelling (from leakage of blood and tissue fluid) and inflammation prevail in the first two days, and that after three days, one wishes to increase local circulation and augment reabsorption of the fluid that has collected. There is some science to this, and these recommendations have been around for as long as I can recall. Read more »
This post, Muscle Strain: Should You Treat It With Hot Packs Or Cold Packs?, was originally published on Healthine.com by Paul Auerbach, M.D..