Icing may be used along with rest, compression, elevation and support when treating injuries in the first 24-48 hours.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can produce a similar effect to icing. However, research has shown that they may delay healing with acute injuries (like sprains, strains, and fractures).
How does ice work?
It decreases circulation, metabolic activity, and inflammation and numbs the skin therefore reducing the pain.
How can that help?
It decreases pain, swelling, inflammation, and muscle spasm. It is best used initially after injury, after exercise, or after pain-producing activity.
Are there any risks?
Yes, only if ice is left on too long – it can cause frostbite!
When shouldn’t we use ice?
If there is no visible signs of heat, swelling or injury.
Never use ice immediately before physical activity or if the area of icing is already numb
When the pain or swelling involves a nerve (such as the ulnar nerve at the elbow or “funny bone”)
Never apply ice to an open wound
Or if you have poor circulation or vascular disease (Raynauds)
How long should I use the ice?
Two to 3 times per day (minimum); up to once per hour.
Duration varies, usually 20 to 30 minutes per session.
Ice may continue to be useful in treatment as long as there is pain, swelling, inflammation, or spasm.
The use of ice is just one part of a treatment program. Even if symptoms are relieved, there is usually a need for exercises after to restore flexibility and joint motion, strength, general fitness.