A variety of common injuries respond well to ice therapy. When bruises, sprains, scrapes, muscle pulls or fractures occur, applying a cold compress is an effective way of reducing the symptoms of these ailments. Learning about the details of icing an injury ensures you don’t inadvertently misuse the technique.
The Effects of Cold on Injuries
A cold compress, when applied to an injury, works in a variety of ways to reduce the severity of the injury. Drawing heat away from the area reduces inflammation and slows the metabolic rate in the affected area. The cold causes the blood vessels to constrict, reducing the flow of blood to the injury, further reducing swelling and pain. Internal bleeding caused by contusions slows down and eventually stops and the damaged cells constrict as well.
The numbing effect that a cold compress provides to the injury is another source of relief. Nerves become deadened around the area, reducing the signals of pain traveling from the source of the pain to the brain. This helps reduce the amount of pain medication required while making it easier to restore a greater range of motion to the affected area. Muscle spasm also benefit from cold therapy, as they become less susceptible to pain while being stretched.
Despite the reduction in swelling and pain that cold therapy provides, always remember that this is a therapy that doesn’t necessarily heal the injury, but may only provide relief from discomfort, making rehabilitation easier.
Proper Cold Compress Procedures
Never apply a cold compress for too long, as it may harm the skin and reduce the effectiveness of the treatment. The resulting risk of frostbite represents further damage to the injury, slwoing the healing process. Never apply the cold pack directly to the skin. Always wrap the cold material in a towel or a sheet in order to avoid direct contact with the epidermis.
Don’t fall asleep while using an icepack ro a cold compress. The recommended amount of time that you should apply an ice pack to an injury is 10 to 15 minutes – at the very most 20 minutes. The ice pack may be applied every three or four hours to provide relief.
Never apply an excess amount of pressure when placing the icepack on the injury, as it may cause further bruising or swelling to the area. In fact, if you feel a spike in pain after gently placing the icepack on the injury, visit a doctor immediately.
When the injury begins to heal, switching to a warm compress may be more appropriate to help restore your range of motion.
Is Your Back Injured?
Unfortunately, icepacks cannot heal everything. If you’re suffering from back pain due to injury or a chronic condition, Proactive Chiropractic we can help you on the road to health and wellness.