As a personal trainer, I follow RICE when it comes to first aid for injury. Rest, Ice, Compression, and Rest. So let's take a minute to talk about ice. It's the last thing most people want to do. It's right before shots and surgery for some. An acute injury brings with it an inflammatory response. This leads to more pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion. Ice slows down the inflammation and the swelling and is particularly important during the first 72 hours. After the first 72 hours continue to ice. Be consistent. As you start to heal, you will ice less often. For the most part, 15 minutes on 45 minutes off is good. Repeat! Don't ice longer without a physician's direction. The out of the freezer gel packs are great. Keep them handy. If you have stiffness, go for heat but if pain is an issue, go for the ice. If you have pain in the hand, the ankle, a knee or your back, ice!
Resource: End Pain and Neck Pain Vincent Fortansce, MD, David Gutkind, DPT, Robert G. Watkins, III MD