Should You Apply Ice or Heat? Use the “PRICE” Method for Sprains and Strains

woman grabbing her ankle

If you’ve ever suffered a sprain or a strain, you understand the frustration that comes with it. Besides the pain and discomfort, there’s the disruption to your daily routine. You might even find yourself temporarily unable to partake in your favourite activities.

Thankfully, there’s a method to manage these acute injuries effectively, mitigating pain and speeding up recovery. It’s called the “PRICE” method, a helpful acronym that is useful to remember when you have an acute injury.

Before we dive in, let’s quickly differentiate between sprains and strains. Sprains refer to injuries to the ligaments (the bands of connective tissue that join bones together), while strains are injuries to the muscles or tendons (the fibrous cords of tissue that connect muscle to bone). While different, these injuries can be similarly painful and disruptive.

Please note that if you are unsure of the severity of your sprain or strain, you should talk to your doctor before beginning any treatment or rehabilitation.

Remember P.R.I.C.E.

These five simple rules will help speed up your recovery in the first 48-72 hours of a sprain (ligament) or strain (muscle) injury.


Protecting the injured area from further harm is the initial step in the PRICE method. This can be done by avoiding activities that might exacerbate the injury, such as running on a sprained ankle or lifting heavy objects with a strained back. In some cases, you might need to use a protective aid like a brace or splint.

R is for REST.

Rest is crucial for recovery. Your body needs time to heal itself, and rest allows this process to take place without additional stressors. Try to rest the injured area as much as possible to expedite recovery.

I is for ICE.

man leaning down to grab sore ankle

Ice should be applied to an injured area as soon as possible.

Use the 10/10/10 method of ice application: 10 minutes of ice; followed by 10 minutes of rest without ice; followed by 10 minutes of ice again. Do not apply heat. Ice works to reduce pain and inflammation to your injured muscles, joints and tissues and may even slow bleeding if a tear has occurred. Remember to wrap your ice pack in a towel or cloth to avoid direct skin contact and potential frostbite.


Compression also helps minimize swelling, which can speed up recovery and lessen discomfort. You can compress an injury using an elastic bandage or a specialized compression wrap. However, be cautious not to wrap it too tightly, as this can inhibit circulation and cause more harm than good. When wrapping, begin at the end furthest away from the heart.


If possible, raise the injured area above the level of the heart, especially at night, by putting a pillow under the injured area. This helps to control swelling by encouraging fluid drainage from the area.

After the first 48 hours, slowly start to use the injured area again and continue icing for another day. If you are unsure of the severity of your injury, consult a doctor or chiropractor for an evaluation.

The wellness team at Pickering Village Chiropractic & Massage provides our patients with more than just chiropractic and massage therapy services, but also the know-how to build better personal wellness habits so you can be at your best for work or play, every day.

To book an appointment or learn more about the chiropractic and therapeutic massage therapy services available at our clinic, call 905-427-3202.