Pulled muscle -- ice for how many days?

A question for any medically-minded Dopers.

Yesterday I pulled a calf muscle playing ultimate frisbee. I’m familiar with the R.I.C.E. mantra (rest, ice, compression, elevation), but I’m not sure for how long I’m supposed to keep it iced.

I applied ice at home after the game (for a couple of hours). Should I do the same tonight? Tomorrow night? Until it stops hurting? Or is ice only effective immediately following the injury?

All advice appreciated, as always.


Actually, I’ve been advised by my physiotherapist that you should ice/heat muscle injuries - and only apply ice for 15 minutes at a time, followed with 15 minutes of heat.

I would do this until the muscle doesn’t hurt anymore.

You should only use ice (NOT heat) for the first few days. For a calf strain, for the first day or two I’d ice about 15 to 20 minutes on, then at least an hour off. Once the muscle is no longer acutely inflammed (red, swollen, etc.) - usually after two or three days - you can start with alternately ice and heat. Use more ice than heat at first, and gradually work up to a higher heat:ice ratio.

IANAD, but as I understand it (after having been through some PT for bad ankle sprains), ice for just after you injure yourself, to help keep swelling down. Beginning the next day, you want to treat the injury with heat. However, activities that put stress on the injury may require more ice. For example, if you have to go to work and walk around all day, and find your calf muscle hurting extra as a result, you will probably want to ice it.

I twisted my knee in some way a while back and injured it enough to require a month of physical therapy. They iced it after every exercise session for the whole month.