Use heat if the injury is over the a day old, according to Healthline. Heat and cold both reduce pain, but cold is recommended for acute pain or a new swollen or inflamed injury. Use ice to decrease blood flow to the injury, decreasing swelling, states the University of Rochester.
Apply cold packs no more than 20 minutes per application. Ice is recommended for injuries under six weeks old because it temporarily numbs the pain from swelling, whereas heat may increase inflammation, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
The stretching or tearing of ligaments in the joints are common causes of swelling and inflammation. Ice packs, ice massage and cold masks are types of cold treatments recommended for reducing swelling, claims the Cleveland Clinic.