Wellness Journal

Physical Therapy-Ice for Acute Injuries

Acute injuries are the first 2-7 days following an injury.  It is recommended to PROTECT, REST, ICE, COMPRESS and ELEVATE the injured area.  Ice is used to control edema or the inflammatory response to an injury.  By controlling edema you are controlling the swelling and the pain that comes with it.  Ice will decrease any secondary enzymatic or hypoxic injuries commonly associated with any acute injury.  Ice will also decrease the release of neurotransmitters that control the pain cycle and thus decrease the intensity of the injury.

Some major contraindications to icing are:

  • Cold sensitivities/allergies
  • impaired circulation
  • impaired sensation
  • vasospastic disorders
  • do not apply directly to the skin (gel packs)
  • avoid any superficial nerves to avoid nerve palsy

The first 24 hours of any injury is the most critical.  It is advised to apply ice as quickly as possible and to do so for 20 minutes.  Intervals between icing should last 60 minutes.  So 20 minutes on 60 minutes off.  Be sure to have a barrier between the ice pack and your skin to avoid further injury.

Remember that inflammation is a natural response to any injury.  Inflammation is how our bodies heal.  Swelling is in fact a result of an inflammatory response and a good sign that your body is aware of an injury and working hard to repair it.  By following the above recommendations you will be controlling the inflammatory response and the pain that comes with it.  Some will argue that when you ice you’re actually slowing the bodies response to an injury and hindering your ability to heal.  This is a valid argument, however, ice is used to control pain and discomfort associated with an injury.  I would rather slow the inflammatory process than live miserably through it.

So to re-iterate, next time you sprain an ankle or hit your head remember to  PROTECT, REST, ICE, COMPRESS and ELEVATE the injury and get into our office for treatment!

Dr. Jared, DC