The proper way to ice injuries

You’ve likely injured yourself at least once throughout your life time.

If so, then you’ve probably experienced the excruciating pain of an injured body part. It’s possibly distracted you from your daily activities and even made recovery from the injury more difficult.

That’s why it’s important to have a means of managing the pain.

Icing is a common treatment performed on injuries with the aim of reducing swelling and pain. Due to its convenience, it’s a reasonable step to take whenever you sustain an injury.

As long as it’s performed safely, nothing will go wrong.

But what exactly is the proper way to ice injuries?

That’s the aim of this blog post — to show you the proper way to ice injuries so you can have the fastest possible injury recovery process.

How to Use Ice to Treat Injuries

Many suggests that ice can help with reducing swelling and pain in injuries. On the contrary, there are also those claiming that ice actually slows down the healing process.

So before we talk about the proper way to ice injuries, let’s clear up the misunderstanding on ice application.

Clearing up the Misunderstanding on Ice Application

Many people suggest that ice can reduce tissue swelling, pain, and damage when applied to injuries, but how true is this statement?

It is indeed effective to use ice to minimize pain and swelling around an injury. However, it is not proven to also minimize the actual damage to the body.

Additionally, inflammation or swelling is a normal part of the body’s process when it’s trying to recover from injuries. Due to the fact that ice reduces swelling, some think that ice might actually be a hindrance to our body’s natural healing process.

However, there isn’t scientific evidence to prove that either. So should you ice your injuries after all or not?

Why Use Ice to Treat Injuries?

Despite common belief, ice application is not proven to directly speed up the restoration process. However, it is undoubtedly capable of relieving pain caused by a multitude of injuries.

These include strains, sprains, dislocations, fractures, and more. Ice application can help manage the pain for most of these.

Why does that matter?

Because no matter the injury, enduring the pain is not recommended. Icing injuries can reduce the swelling which will help ease the pain.

Pain should be treated as soon as possible to improve comfort and relaxation. These two factors, comfort and relaxation, can minimize stress and improve your recovery as a result.

Take note too that when pain is taken care of early on, regardless of the injury, the pain will be easier to control later. That’s another reason to ice your injuries once they occur.

In addition, ice is one of the most accessible pain-relief options. Most people don’t usually consult a doctor every time they get injuries. They may not be able to get pain-killing medications quickly either.

This may be due to them being too busy or other circumstances. However, most people can grab a pack of ice quickly, though. This makes ice application for pain relief very convenient.

Ice is easily accessible and the application can be done by anyone.

That said, there are some circumstances where ice may not be the best treatment.

When Is It Recommended to Use Ice?

There are different types of injuries. Some of them can be treated with ice, while others are not ideal for ice application.
To give you a better idea, here are the two kinds of injuries:

  • Acute Injuries — These are injuries caused by a traumatic event or an incident that causes bodily harm such as falling, slipping, and more.
  • Chronic Injuries — This refers to injuries that develop slowly and are long-lasting. While a chronic injury can also be a result of traumatic event, there are many other causes of this injury. Post-surgical conditions, overexertion, diseases, and body degeneration are common examples.

In the case of acute injuries, ice application is advisable. This is due to the fact that acute injuries are sudden. That means the resulting pain can be unbearable.

Take note that acute injuries are usually those that occurred in the past 48-72 hours (from present time), by the way.

Now in the case of chronic injuries, since the pain is often bearable, the pain control that ice provides might not help as much.

It’s also possible that chronic injuries can come back periodically. If that is the case, ice application won’t completely remove the pain.

Relaxation techniques or heat application would be a better treatment for chronic issues. Medication is also recommended to reduce chronic pain slowly and possibly erase it completely.

So to make things short: apply ice to manage acute pain but not chronic pain, unless instructed by a doctor. It’s important that you remember everything we discussed up to now if you want to avoid making mistakes with ice application.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Ice Application

While ice is proven to relieve pain, you can’t be 100% sure that it won’t cause harm. As such, applying ice on injuries should be done in a systematic way.

Don’ts in Applying Ice to Injuries

Before that, there is one thing you should remember throughout this section.

The cold temperature of ice can cause damage not only to the injury but also to the tissues around it. This includes the possibility of frostbite, where tissues are frozen due to prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. So the key is to apply ice appropriately.

This fact explains why simply applying ice on injuries is a delicate process. To help you manage that process, here are the “don’ts” of ice application.

  • Don’t take too long. When applying ice, limit the duration from 20 to 30 minutes. Ice tightens blood vessels and reduces blood flow. If this goes on for too long, however, it will slow the healing process.
  • Don’t do it too soon. Before applying ice on injuries again, make sure to wait for two hours first. In cases of extra sensitive skin, two hours is not enough. If so, wait until the skin is normal to the touch again and safe to apply.
  • Don’t do it too often. In addition to waiting for two hours or more in between each ice application, you can only ice injuries for up to five times a day.

Do’s in Applying Ice to Injuries

Now that you know the restrictions of ice application, here are some tips to maximize the benefits of ice.

  • Apply ice during the first 48 hours. Apply ice to the injured part as soon as possible. The effect of ice will decline as time goes by. This is because your body is developing a tolerance to the pain, so the pain relief of ice is becoming less and less needed.
  • Use a thin cloth. Make sure you add a layer between the ice and your skin. A thin cloth is advisable. If your skin is sensitive, a thicker layer might be necessary.
  • Try to compress and elevate. To reduce swelling, compression and elevation while icing is recommended. Compression in particular can help the cold reach deeper into the tissues. This will make it easier to relieve the pain.
  • Be resourceful. Ice packs are convenient because of their portability. However, if there are no stores selling them, it is important to remember that there are other ways to apply ice. You can use ice cubes or packs of frozen vegetables from your refrigerator. Just make sure they are wrapped in cloth and sanitary. You can even wash them off before application.
  • Repeat if necessary. Depending on how severe the injury is, you can repeat the ice application as you like.

Final Thoughts on The Proper Way to Ice Injuries

By now, you should already know not only the proper way to ice injuries but also its benefits and the situations where it’s recommended.

Ice is an advisable treatment for many injuries due to its pain-relieving quality and convenience. However, ice is not a “one size fits all” solution due to the variety of injury types. It’s better to use it for acute injuries instead of using it to deal with chronic pain.

If you are going to ice injuries, make sure to remember the do’s and don’ts that we have discussed. Otherwise, you can do more harm than good.

AccuDoc Urgent Care offers a wide variety of services. If you can’t get rid of pain through ice application, AccuDoc provides a physical therapy program and more alternative therapies.

You will undergo several screening tests to assess your physical state and provide you with exercises most suited to your body. This can help you recover from injuries and even manage pain from them.

If you want to learn more, you may come to us for physical therapy. We can help you see if it’s the right treatment for you.