How many times when you were a child, did you sprain your ankle or trip and fall and your mom gave you a frozen package of vegetables to put on the area to help it feel better? I’m sure your parents and your parent’s parents did the same things. There is a reason why ice has been so prevalent in the injury world and why it is still something you should be doing when injuries occur to this day.
Why should I ice?
Icing an area is a cheap and straightforward form of cryotherapy. After an acute injury or flare-up of a preexisting condition, ice numbs the area and constrict the vasculature of the region, so the inflammation is reduced or at least not funneled in so quickly. This reduction of inflammation is significant because the swelling is the main contributor to the discomfort you’re feeling and interferes with the healing process. The body’s instinct helps protect the area and alert you to the injury, so you don’t further aggravate it, but it’s an imperfect process. Sometimes it needs a little shove in the right direction, and that’s where ice comes into play.
Inflammation makes things worse? Then why does my body make it?
The body is a fantastic thing, and it fights off millions and billions of bacteria, viruses and helps repair tissue without you even knowing it. Unfortunately, sometimes it goes a little overboard. This response of flooding the area with inflammation, antibodies, and white blood cells is excellent; for open wounds. If there is a gap to the outside world, then we need an extreme response.
This response, however, is not required when the injury occurs inside the body, like a sprained ankle. There is no use for the antibodies and white blood cells to aggregate because it’s just tissue damage, not a foreign invasion. We can’t change the way the body responds to these events, so we augment them from an outside source as best we can. We can do that with ice, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Someone call the P.O.L.I.C.E.
P.O.L.I.C.E., or protection, optimal loading, ice, compression, and elevation, is the newest standard for treating musculoskeletal injuries.
Protection is the initial step with evaluating the extent of the damage by your local chiropractor, orthopedist, or PCP. Add any bracing, casting, or support to prevent any further damage as soon as possible before any other steps.
Optimal loading is essentially getting moving as quickly as possible following the accident. While in the past it might have been reasonable to be in bed rest for days following a hip replacement, some surgeries now have patients up and walking (very minimally) the same day of the operation! This movement is what the body craves and needs to heal; it helps get the inflammation out and get everything going.
Next is ice, which we’ve already talked about, helping reduce inflammation and helping with pain reduction.
Compression is what it sounds like, compressing down the tissue so that there is less free space for the inflammation to form, and if things aren’t structurally sound, less room to aggravate themselves.
Lastly is elevation, which is keeping the affected area above the heart (if possible). Still, some recent research shows this might be less effective or not effective at all for keeping the inflammation out.
So I should Ice all the time then?
Ice is a great way to help reduce inflammation and, when used consistently in shorter bursts, really helps the overall area calm down. Like most things, some is good, while a lot can be detrimental. If you keep ice on the skin for long periods, you can risk potential frostbite if you have the ice directly on the skin immobile or reduced oxygen exchange in the blood vessels, which can slow down healing.
That’s why here at Express Chiropractic and Wellness, we recommend 15-20 minutes of ice on the area with ice not directly contacting the skin two to three times a day when aggravated. The other alternative is to have something like an ice cup, and you must keep constant movement over the area with the ice, not letting it sit still.
So only with major injuries?
Ice isn’t just something to use when you have an acute injury; sometimes, it can help if something flares up as you go about your day. It’s a noninvasive technique you can use almost every day to help with daily aches and pains, but it won’t replace an adjustment! Everything needs to be moving and functioning correctly to stop the inflammation process from getting out of control.
See more information about Ice therapy from another Chiropractor here!
Express Chiropractic and Wellness of Frisco offers all these options and more from our licensed Chiropractors and Massage Therapist. With your first visit, including consultation, exam, adjustment (if warranted), and a 10-minute massage therapy session, we have all the tools to get you back on your feet! We even have a certificate offering $10 off your first visit! We look forward to seeing you and helping you through your journey soon.