A muscle strain or ligament sprain is usually localized, with the pain lasting from a few days to several weeks.

Apply cold packs to a strain. When you strain a ligament or a muscle, applying cold packs for the next 1 to 3 days is the best treatment. Don't use heat. Hot soaks or a heating pad may increase swelling and inflammation.

Reasons why you need to use cold on muscle strain:

  • Cold reduces swelling and inflammation. Cells may be damaged because swelling decreases the oxygen supply to surrounding tissues. Cold applications lower the metabolism within the cells and allow the tissue to survive a temporary lack of oxygen, according to the Mayo Clinic. This promotes the repair of cells and speeds healing.
  • Cold constricts blood vessels, which helps control bleeding within the injury.
  • Cold relieves pain and acts as a local anesthetic. Bruising usually stops within 1 to 3 days after an injury. To relieve muscle spasms and the pain of minor sprains and strains, it's best to apply cold for about 20 minutes at a time every 4 to 6 hours for the first 1 or 2 days.

Commercial cold packs are safer than using ice. Prolonged exposure to ice can result in frostbite. If you do not have a commercial cold pack, you can use an ice bag or a plastic bag filled with crushed ice that has been wrapped in a towel. Keep the injured area elevated above the level of the heart to help decrease swelling. Use a pillow to help elevate an injured limb.

When should you use heat?

Heat is better for chronic pain or for muscle relaxation. It could be helpful after the first 3 or 4 days.

Bonus tip:
Young athletes can reduce the chance of muscle strain or other injuries during sports by making warm-ups, such as
stretching and light jogging, and cooldowns part of their routine before and after participating in sports.