A sports injury resulting from an impact or even muscular cramps can cause swelling and pain. Ice can prove to be very handy in relieving pain and swelling.
How Does Ice Relieve Pain & Swelling?
When you injure an area, tear a muscle, or sprain an ankle, blood vessels get broken in and around that area. Blood then flows into the area, transporting compounds needed to heal the injury, which causes redness, swelling and inflammation in the area.
The inflammatory process is vital for repairing of tissues, but too much blood flow into the area can cause severe pain. This is where ice comes in. It narrows the blood vessels and prevents blood from accumulating at the site of injury, which reduces pain and inflammation. That is why elevation is helpful because it limits blood flow to the area minimizing swelling.
A good rule of thumb to follow for injuries is RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Ice also limits the nociceptive response (the response of nerve cells to pain) that helps decrease pain.
When You Should Apply Ice To A Sports Injury
Applying ice is the most effective in acute sports injuries when done during the first 24 to 48 hours following the injury. If the area of injury is still swollen after 48 hours, you should continue to use ice therapy.
What Is The Right Way To Use Ice On A Sports Injury?
- Place crushed ice or ice cubes in a ziplock bag or use a commercial frozen gel pack. Wrap it in a towel and gently apply this pack over your injury for 20 minutes. You may apply the ice pack every four hours every day to relieve the swelling.
- Freeze water in a Styrofoam cup. Once frozen, remove the top lid of the cup and gently massage the area of injury for five minutes at a time. Move the ice in a circular motion, moving inward with each circle. As you massage, you will feel cold followed by a burning sensation and then numbness after a few minutes. Do not let the ice come in direct contact with your skin in order to avoid frostbites.
Ice therapy is useful for mild to moderate sports injuries, but severe injuries may need medical attention.
If you are unsure of how to apply ice properly or are uncertain about the extent of the injury, seek advice from a physiotherapy or your healthcare professional for evaluation and treatment.