Gentle, preferably comfortable, movement helps the body heal and settle down. A little activity performed frequently helps prevent you stiffening up, reduces swelling settle around painful joints and muscles, and often brings pain relief.
Should I rest?
Lying down does not generally accelerate your recovery. However, in the early phase of an acutely painful episode it is appropriate to lie down for pain relief for periods of perhaps 20 to 30 minutes.
Many people are concerned that if they take painkillers they may do further damage because they are less aware of the pain. However, if painkillers do relieve your pain, often they will also cause a reduction in the muscle tension trying to prevent movement. This enables you to move around more naturally, and this can help the healing process. It is wise though not to attempt more strenuous tasks while taking painkillers, because you may stir up inflammation and you may feel more pain as the painkillers wear off.
Heat or ice?
If there is inflammation present during the first few days, applying ice may help reduce the inflammation, by slowing the circulation in the area, which reduces the rate of swelling. To be effective, an ice pack, wrapped in a thin towel or tea towel to prevent damage to the skin, needs to be applied to the inflamed area for between 5 to 10 minutes, and repeated at regular hourly intervals if at all possible. Repeated icing is important. Applying it only once or twice a day will have minimal effect. Please note that if ice is applied for much more than 10 minutes it causes an increase in blood flow, which can increase the swelling. (This will not cause lasting harm to the underlying injury, but it can damage the skin).
Applying heat to an area of the body increases the blood flow. This helps the muscles relax and reduces fatigue of muscles. This can be applied for longer periods without any harm, but avoid having a wheat bag or hot-water bottle too hot since this may also burn the skin.