The body is an amazing machine, most often it knows exactly what it needs. If you’ve ever been injured, you may have experienced swelling at the site of the injury. This swelling or inflammation, is the body attempting to immobilize the area, sort creating it’s own natural cast, in order to limit movement and allow it to heal.
Because most of us don’t want to slow down enough to allow the body to heal in it’s own time, we hurry the process along by taking over the counter anti-inflammatory drugs or by icing it.
There are many differing opinions on when and what type of injuries to ice and or not. Although sometimes icing feels like torture it is the best way to reduce inflammation immediately following an acute injury. Often we hear that heat “feels better,” and some would theorize that if it increases circulation to the injured area, it stands to reason that it will help to remove toxins more quickly but the reality is that if inflammation occurs and is encouraged, the swelling itself will make it much more difficult to move toxins anywhere.
Many athletic trainers suggest the use of ice/heat combination, with some time in between to allow the tissue to return to normal temperature and avoid tissue breakdown. It is really up to each person to make that decision, but empirical evidence suggests that icing for the first 48 hours greatly reduces inflammation and allows for healing to happen faster.
After the 48 hours a combination of heat/cold not only feels good, but does have a “pumping” effect by bringing circulation in with the heat, and dispersing the blood with the cold.
Proper Icing Techniques:
- Get the ice on quickly Icing is most effective in the immediate period following an injury. The effect of icing diminishes significantly after about 48 hours.
- Perform an “ice massage” Apply ice directly to the injury. Move the ice frequently, not allowing it to sit in one spot.
- Don’t forget to elevate Keep the injured body part elevated above the heart while icing — this will further help reduce swelling.
- Watch the clock Ice for 15-20 minutes, but never longer. You can cause further damage to the tissues, including frostbite, by icing for too long.
- Allow time between treatments Allow area to warm for at least 45 minutes to an hour before beginning the icing routine again.
Types of Icing Methods
1. Ice Option 1 — Traditional:
Use a Ziploc bag with ice cubes or crushed ice. Add a little water to the ice bag so it will conform to your body.
2. Ice Option 2 — Best:
Keep paper cups filled with water in your freezer. Peel the top of the cup away and massage the ice-cup over the injury in a circular pattern allowing the ice to melt away.
3. Ice Option 3 — Creative:
Use a bag of frozen peas or corn from the frozen goods section. This option provides a reusable treatment method that is also edible.
4. Prevent Frostbite:
Do not allow ice to sit against the skin without a layer of protection. Either continually move the ice (see “ice massage”) or use a thin towel between the ice and skin.