Friday, 14 September 2012

The best way(s) to ice an injury

So you have just injured yourself - you know you must ice the injured area, but have you ever thought about the best way to do that?

There are several ways to ice an injury, certain circumstances make some methods more appropriate than others. For that reason this blog post will outline a few of the best icing methods and give you some examples of when they are most appropriate to use.

Ice baths
This method is largely used after activity where it is believed that there has been wide spread micro-trauma to the muscle tissues of the legs (or lower limbs). I.e. running (distance), cycling, rugby, football, hockey, squash etc. This is a very general icing method, all areas of your legs will be iced equally, because of that this application is best used where there in not a specific injury.   

Micro-trauma, or tiny tears in the muscles, usually occur after intense or prolonged bouts of exercise. Everyone from elite athletes to your average gym goer can make use of this type of icing. The primary benefits of ice bathing include reduced muscular soreness, reduced metabolic activity (swelling) and flushing of 'waste' products in the muscles.

How to apply this type of icing (time required: 5-15mins)
Step 1. Fill your bath up to waist height with cold water (10-12°c). Depending on where you are and the time of the year your bath may run out at this temperature with the cold tap only, if not you'll have to add ice to get the temperature cold enough.
Step 2. Sit in the cold water, yes it will be chilly! From experience the first couple of minutes will be the most uncomfortable.  

Ice cube massage
This is a very direct method and one of the most aggressive forms of icing that can be used. It is great for use on small areas of inflammation (or tendinitis type injuries). Some examples of the type of injuries I'll often prescribe this for are Achilles tendinitis, golfer elbow, tennis elbow, patella tendinitis, plantar fasciitis and ankle sprains. If the area that needs to be iced is no more than about 3x the size of a 50pence piece this method is perfect.
How to apply this type of icing (time required: 5-7mins)
Step 1. Take an ice cube and grip it with a piece of kitchen towel (or something similar) leaving part of the ice cube exposed.
Step 2. Massage the inflamed area working in a figure of eight or circular fashion.

Gel ice packs (or a bag of peas) - available to buy here
Most people will be familiar with the method of icing. As with the other methods the primary reason for icing in this way is to limit localised swelling and to control pain levels. This type of icing is best used when the injury site is larger and more diffuse. The type of injuries you will want to use this method of icing with will be injuries such as a bruised quadriceps (thigh) muscle or a tear to the hamstring.
How to apply this type of icing (time required: 10-15mins) 
Step 1. Take your ice pack or peas out of the freezer and wrap them with a thin kitchen cloth or towel.
Step 2. Place the ice pack over the injury site, you can use tape or a bandage to lightly hold it in position. 

Instant ice packs available to buy here
This application is essentially the same a using a standard ice pack or peas. These instant ice packs are more convenient because they do not need to be stored in a freezer. The can be stored anywhere and as their name suggests they can be used instantly. They do not start off cold, they contain to chemicals within the bag and once the two chemical are mixed the ice bag goes cold within a couple of seconds.

These are the ice packs I use if I'm working with a sports team on the touch line. They are useful as it means I have an instant 'ice' treatment available to me when I need it, without the need of having access to a freezer. These are ideal for putting in the boot of your car for a 'just in case' scenario. Although they are very useful there are two draw backs with these ice packs. Firstly they don't get quite as cold as gel ice packs - though they are cold enough in an emergency. The second problem is they can only be used once, after which they must be thrown away. As I said they are really only for use when there is no other option.
How to apply this type of icing (time required: 10-15mins)
Step 1. Squeeze ice pack and shake to mix the chemicals.
Step 2. Place the ice pack over the injury site, you can use tape or a bandage to lightly hold it in position. 
As always if you have any questions regarding this post please feel free to email us...

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