Ice or Heat for Acute Injury

Acute Injury Management

Treating an acute injury correctly can make a big difference to how quickly you recover.  We are continually asked ” Should I ice the injury or apply heat. Should I rest or get moving?”

The immediate treatment of any muscle, joint or ligament injury consists of the RICER protocol for the first 48 to 72 hours to reduce bleeding and swelling.


This may mean lie down, use a sling or use crutches, depending on the site of injury

I = Ice

Apply ice packs wrapped in a damp cloth to the area for 20 minutes as frequently as every 2 hours when ever possible.

C = Compression 

Use a compression bandage such as tubigrip or an elastic bandage from the chemist.

E =Elevation.

Keep the injured limb higher than the heart as much as possible.


See a health professional to get appropriate advice on how to manage the injury to allow optimal healing.

The no HARM protocol is also useful to remember.

No Heat, no alcohol, no running and no massage in the first 48 – 72 hours to limit the blood flow to the injured area.

How do I know whether to follow the protocol for 48 or 72 hours?

If the area is still warm, red and throbbing after 48 hours, continue with the RICER and No HARM protocol until this settles.

For further assistance in managing an acute injury, phone the clinic on 8347 2043.