This ‘hot’ topic has been discussed a lot lately, especially in the world of sports and fitness. Should you be icing your injuries at all? If so, should you be icing them in the rehabilitation process or immediately after the injury? What is the correct way to ice an injury and what does that exactly do for your body? Before getting beyond the tip of this iceberg, let’s clear the air about some of the misconceptions floating around about icing.

A lot of people have been saying that icing impacts the healing process negatively.
The logic behind this view is that ice is thought to reduce the inflammatory response. We know that the inflammatory response is crucial during the initial days of the healing process and you can thus argue that ice does more harm than good here. However, several studies have found that taking anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS, corticosteroids) can interfere with the healing process by limiting the inflammatory response.

What you should take note off though, is that these drugs stay in your system for 6 hours or longer whereas the cooling effect of ice only lasts a few minutes – to numb the pain and reduce inflammation when your body most needs it.

Another very important point to remember is that excessive inflammation and swelling can cause secondary injury, so icing plays a key role in further controlling any possible damage to the vulnerable area.

Icing Vs Heat

Now a lot of people are confused when it comes to choosing ice or heat to treat an injury, a ‘hot’ debate nowadays. To this we’d just like to put forward their effects on the injury to help you decide when to pick what, since both work in tandem to heal the affected area.
Ice is most effective immediately after the injury, to control and reduce the inflammation and numb the intense pain.
Heat on the other hand is found to be more effective in the recovery process and not immediately after the injury, because it facilitates more blood flow to the affected parts to help them grow back and recover better.

When should you be icing?

Icing can be done right after sustaining an injury to limit the amount of bleeding and swelling that occur.
This is crucial because both excessive bleeding and excessive swelling can cause an increase in the pressure on the surrounding tissue and cells – which then cuts off oxygen and blood supply to the area causing the uninjured cells to die and adding a secondary injury to the mix. This usually increases recovery time and makes it harder to access the injured parts.

How should you ice an injury?

  • Frozen peas are ideally the best. Chemical and gel packs tend to warm up faster, but if you’re in a fix make do with what you get. It should be frozen though.

  • Always have a wet towel or cloth between your skin and the ice to prevent it from burning your skin.

  • Apply the ice for 10 minutes with a slight compression over the affected area. Wrapping a towel/crepe bandage around the ice helps keep it in place in a stable position.

  • Do not leave the ice on for more than 10 minutes or use strong compression as this can have the opposite effect. Let the injury breathe and let the ice do its job. Don’t force the issue, it’ll just make it worse!

We hope this ‘cool’ blog helps you when the time comes. Stay tuned to our blog section for more information on pain and injury management and prevention!