ice pack treatment

The Cold Blog: How and When to Apply Ice to Your Injury

Following our Hot Blog: How and When to Apply Heat to Your Injury, we thought it only fitting to end this small series with how to apply ice to an injury and when it’s appropriate. If you’ve read our last post, then you know that adding extreme temperature is an easy way to apply immediate first aid to a sports injury, such as a sprain or strain. But in almost all cases, choosing any old temperature to apply to your injured area is not a good idea. In case you were wondering when the right time is to bring out the ice, here is a quick guide:

RICE, RICE, Baby?

In order to talk about icing an injury, we have to talk about RICE. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. As soon as an injury occurs, you can help alleviate the pain that can be caused by inflammation by practicing RICE:
• Rest: change your activity, take a break, stop what you’re doing: whatever it takes to get your weight off the injury or to stop doing the motion that caused the injury in the first place.
• Ice: Here’s the thing: we don’t suggest applying ice to your injury just like that. When it comes to an acute injury, the point of using ice is to help reduce inflammation which can cause discomfort and pain. However, inflammation is part of the healing process, so we don’t want to reduce it entirely. Read below for more information.
• Compression: Compression is used for the same purpose as ice: to prevent too much inflammation. It can be a good idea to wrap a bandage around the area to prevent further swelling, but eventually, we suggest unwrapping the bandage to let the inflammation do its job and to prevent the build-up of fluid.
• Elevation: If you’ve ever experienced the uncomfortable sensation of your heart beating in your knee, you probably know what it feels like to have a swollen body part. Although inflammation is technically a good thing, our bodies may produce too much, which can cause that horrible feeling. To reduce that feeling, rest the injured area above your heart on top of a pillow.

How and When to Apply Ice

One thing about ice is that it’s really cold…obviously. You wouldn’t light your skin with a match to keep warm, so we don’t suggest applying ice directly to your skin either. If you live in Kelowna, then you might know a thing or two about frost bite. To avoid painful skin injuries, be sure to wrap the ice in a tea towel or t-shirt before applying to your skin. You want your skin to cool down gradually, not immediately. A bag of frozen vegetables, although not as effective as a good gel pack, will work in a pinch if you have nothing else at your disposal.

Be sure to leave your ice on for only 15 to 20 minutes at a time, before it starts to feel uncomfortable. That should be long enough for the painful inflammation to go down and give your body some much-needed relief.

When RICE Doesn’t Work

Applying RICE to your injury isn’t always the best method to relieve pain. Depending on the area that’s affected, you may need different therapy. If you’ve sustained a back injury and need chiropractic care, contact Symtrio Chiropractic today.

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