The one question I get asked daily is…Do I put ice on my sports injury?
Despite the nice soothing feeling of heat, it is not the most efficient way to promote healing.
To understand which treatment is best, one needs to understand the nature of the injury and its classification whether it’s an acute injury or a chronic injury.
An acute injury is one that has occurred within the last 48hours. An acute injury is a process of initial bleeding and inflammation of the area. An acute injury is sudden and has severe pain.
A subacute injury is one that has occurred within 1-6 weeks. there is no definitive time scale, but usually, this begins after the first 3 days after an injury and can last up to 6 weeks, this stage is important as the body starts to repair and heal and lay down new tissue.
A chronic injury is an injury that has been there for more than 6 weeks in duration.
Ice is recommended for acute injuries it is especially helpful to reduce swelling and control pain it reduces inflammation by decreasing blood flow. To try simplify things in an acute phase the body overreacts and sends all its resources to the injury site, this is the most important time to use ice as we need to decrease this reaction.
Ice is most effective if it is applied early within the first 2 hours after the injury and is used continually for up to 48hours. Acute injuries can lead to a chronic syndrome if left untreated. Do not use heat on an acute injury because heat can increase inflammation which will delay healing.
The length of time ice should be used, depends on the delivery method or type of application.
The most effective application is with wet ice for a period of 10 min on, take it off for 10 minutes, apply on 10 minutes, off for 10 minutes, on for 10 minutes (x3 on). This process can be repeated every 3-4 hours (for 48hours).
Prolonged cooling devices can be used and worn continuously up to 36hours.
The biggest mistake made is, using wet ice for periods longer than 15 minutes as this causes an increased reflex in blood flow (undesired increase in an inflammatory response known as hunting reaction).
In our next write up we will be discussing when to use heat and when to combine heat and ice together.
Dr Tarnia Raad and Dr Joshua Gernetzky