During the initial 24 hours after an injury, rest, immobilize, compress (with an ace wrap--not too tight), elevate and ice (RICE) the area. After the initial 24 hours, you can use both ice and heat to make yourself feel better. Ice reduces swelling and lessens pain by numbing the area with cold. Ice also increases blood flow after it is removed from the injury. Heat will increase blood circulation to the sprain or bruise which helps with the healing process. Heat will also decrease pain by relaxing the muscles around the injury.
It is very easy to make your own ice pack. You can use ice cubes from the freezer and place the ice cubes in a bag. A bag of frozen peas or corn works well. You can also freeze water in a styrofoam cup. After it has frozen, you peel the styrofoam off the ice. This can be used to "ice massage" the area. It is also possible to buy reusable ice packs at the drug store. Place a thin towel over the ice or ice pack and place it on the sprain or bruise for about fifteen minutes per hour. You should try to do this at least twice a day.
Moist heat is better than dry heat because moist heat goes deeper into the tissues. A hot bath, a hot shower, a whirlpool bath or jacuzzi are the best sources of moist heat. A special moist heating pad is also good. (Do not get a dry heating pad wet!) An inexpensive way to get moist heat would be to wrap a hot wet towel around a hot water bottle and then place this on the sprain or bruise. You can heat a wet towel in a microwave oven. Moist heat may be applied to the sprain or bruise as often as you like. Please be careful not to burn yourself!