With any strain, sprain, or injury where a muscle or joint has been extremely stressed and causes dysfunction and pain, the ice should be immediately applied. Ice has an instant effect to reduce the inflammation and swelling around the area that is injured. That reduces the discomfort and pain, which allows for easier range of motion within the general function and joint.
If you sprained your ankle and it caused the joint to become swollen, black and blue, and be very painful, you would rest, ice it, and take any pressure off of it. The problem with the back and neck is there are so many smaller joints on both sides of the spine that may become inflamed due to daily activities, exercise, sport, posture, and work. At times those smaller joints do not seem as serious as the ankle might show.
You might not need to take time off from work or rest with neck and back pain, so you continue to work as normal and aggravate the irritated muscles and inflamed joints.
The best advice I can give to you is to listen carefully to your body whenever it is telling you something is wrong or provides you with a clue that something is developing. Finally, ice should always be used and not heat with inflation types of conditions or injuries since in some cases, heat can make things worse.
To summarize, ice is used for acute (minutes-hours after injury) injuries – to reduce the pain in damaged superficial tissues that are swollen, red, hot, and inflamed. The inflammation process is natural, normal, and healthy, but also can be incredibly painful and therefore ice may be used as an effective pain management method.
Heat is used for stress, chronic pain, and muscles -to take the edge off of stiffness and muscle ache symptoms, which have numerous unclear causes.
Icing injury tips
Place an ice-pack on the area that is injured for 15 minutes, before you return it to the freezer for another 15 minutes. Repeat the process three times. If your pain persists, be sure to have a medical professional check it since it may be more serious than you first thought.