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What is Ice Therapy?

Why use Ice/Cold Therapy (Cryotherapy)

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There are many different articles that discuss the use of ice therapy to treat sore, tired muscles after exercise and also to treat soft tissue injuries. However there are many differing views not only in relation to when to use ice but also its’ effectiveness in reducing pain and assisting in the recovery process.

The acronym PRICE is the most accepted method of providing treatment to soft tissue injuries. In fact this is followed by many sports injury professionals and sports persons themselves.

Protection – by stopping movement of the injured area you are protecting it from further damage.
Rest – muscles are more likely to suffer further injury and therefore resting the effected muscles is vital.
Ice – This should be applied within 48 hours after sustaining a soft tissue injury.
Compression – this will reduce the likelihood of swelling and prevent the build-up of fluids.
Elevation – if possible raise the affected area above the level of the heart as this will allow any fluid to drain away from the area.

For ice to be an integral part of the accepted first aid treatment for soft tissue injury it must therefore be accepted that it does provide some aide in the recovery process.

The followers of ice therapy also believe that it helps to combat micro trauma (small tears) in the muscle fibres caused by intense exercise. It should be noted that ice should only be used at the end of a period of exercise and not part way through.

What are the effects of ice/cold therapy?

Ice therapy narrows the blood vessels (vasoconstriction) which slows the flow of blood to the injured area. This in turn reduces the build-up of fluid and consequently swelling. It can also numb nerve endings which helps to reduce pain.

How to use ice therapy.

Apply an ice pack to the injured area at least 3 times a day. As a minimum it is suggested that this ice sessions should take place in the morning, afternoon and about 1 hour before bed. However better results are more likely to be achieved if you treat the area every 2 to 3 hrs whilst you are awake for the first 2 days after the injury.
You should also apply ice after any prolonged activity or vigorous exercise.
Never place ice directly against the skin. You must ensure that the ice pack is wrapped in a cloth to prevent ice burn.
Apply the ice pack firmly against the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes. Allow at least 15 minutes before reapplying the ice pack to allow the area to return to normal temperature.

When not to use Ice therapy.

If you are suffering with loss of sensation, broken or ulcerated skin, suffer with vascular disease, are hyper-sensitive to ice or are diabetic you should refrain from using ice therapy.
Do not apply ice packs to the left shoulder if suffering with a heart condition and do not use ice packs around the front or side of the neck.

Please note this is not medical advice. If you are suffering with pain or other health related issues you should consider seeking the advice of an appropriately trained health care professional.

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