How Many Days Should You Ice An Injury: Before You Do Some Harm
Imagine that you’re outdoors finally doing your exercises. It’s a sunny day and today you finally feel like exercising. Everything is perfect. When you’re finally in the zone, enjoying the whole thing, you feel that something is wrong with your leg. It hurts.
Now, this is actually a quite normal scenario. There are many different reasons why a muscle can strain or a joint can sprain. Without a proper exam, it’s nearly impossible to determine if the problem was because you didn’t warm up or because you were too intense.
Sometimes that cause might just be that you were close to having an injury anyway. Muscle fatigue is quite normal. So, as with any physical therapy, you’ll have to use ice to alleviate the pain and help the tissue to heal.
Once you begin doing that, the first question that pops into everyone’s head is, how many days should you ice an injury? The answer is 10 minutes a day until you don’t feel pain or discomfort. This is the limit. After this, you can cause tissue damage to your skin by frostbite or lack of blood flow. Now, you can use the ice more than once a day but you should not use it for more than 10 minutes at a time and you can discontinue it after the pain is gone.
So, it really will depend on a case by case and the severity of the injury. The ice helps the tissues to heal faster and alleviate the localized pain. For that reason, unless your physician says otherwise, you should apply the ice pack for as many days as the pain is still there bothering you.
Is Icing The Best Option
Icing is the best option if you’re using it for the right purpose. Now, it’s important to understand that your body is doing the healing and not the ice. Icing an injury is not medication, it’s just an auxiliary help to heal the injury. To put it simply, when you have an injury, your body will send blood flow and cells to begin the healing process. The problem is that all that blood flow is responsible for the pain and the swelling.
This is the reason why after an injury the area gets really hot. The blood flow that helps you heal also makes your muscle to swell. So, the ice pack will act on the specific area to reduce blood flow only there. This means that the icing will decrease the temperature on the injury and help with pain signals and the swelling. This helps reduce the pain and the swelling and even the body to heal faster.
The icing is an important factor to accelerate the anti-inflammatory process that your body already has taking place. That’s why icing helps so much. For one of the best ice pack, you can use that I highly recommend, please click here to get the latest Amazon pricing.
How Ice Acts On The Injury
So, as explained above, ice is not what heals the body but it assists the system it already has in place to make the healing happen.
The reason you use ice on an injury is that it causes vasodilation. This means that the blood flow of a specific area of your body gets limited. As explained earlier, when you injure yourself, your body increases the blood flow to begin the healing process, which in turn also causes swelling.
The main symptoms of inflammation are redness, swelling, pain, and high-temperature. The icing helps with 3 of those. If you apply the ice pack correctly, you can get rid of the pain, swelling, and the high-temperature.
Now, if you still experience swelling even if you apply the ice pack immediately, it doesn’t mean it didn’t work. Depending on the injury, the swelling will still take place but not as strong as it would have if you hadn’t used the ice. Still, even though icing offers incredible results to most injuries, you should be careful with the signals that your body sends you to not overuse it.
How Long Should You Ice A Day?
There are 2 main rules that you should follow when it comes to icing an injury. The first one is to understand that you’re supposed to ice an injury for no more than 10 minutes. This is crucial that you understand for your well-being.
If you ice an injury for longer than that, you risk causing damage to the tissue and worsening the injury.
Now, 10 minutes is considered the limit that you should ice the injury, but you should listen to your body. If you feel like your skin is either burning or in pain, you should stop it immediately. A good rule of thumb is to understand that your body does give you signs and you should listen to them.
With that said, you can ice an injury for more than once a day. As a matter of fact, you can do it multiple times a day. Depending on the severity of the injury and your case, you can do it 3 times or more a day.
Now, when it comes to days, you should keep the treatment until the pain goes away. Pain and swelling are one of the best signals that your body uses to let you know that things aren’t as good as they could be. So, until the area of the injury doesn’t go back to normal, keep icing it.
When Is It Time To Stop Using It?
There are 2 answers to this question. You have time to stop icing the injury per sessions and completely. This means that you should stop using the ice pack during a session if you have been doing it for 10 minutes or if your body gives you signals.
Those signals are known as CBAN. This is an acronym that means cold, burn, ache, and numb. So, these are the stages of the sensation that you’re going to feel when you’re icing the injury. What this means is that you’re going to first feel the injury area cold, then it’ll burn, then it’ll ache, and lastly, it’ll go numb. At the moment it goes numb, you should stop icing the injury.
Now, to know when to stop the icing sessions altogether, you should do it when you notice the swelling has stopped. These are signals that your body is either healed or able to finish the healing on its own.
There is a recent study that questions the real effects of icing. The study even points out that the icing may actually get in the way of the healing process. With that said, there are alternatives that you can try and see what works better for you. First, you can use nothing and leave the whole healing process to your body. Or you can use icing but only to alleviate the discomfort in the first hours and not use it long-term.
Then, you can also apply pressure to the injury. Some athletes report that applying pressure to the injury is better than icing it. What you can do is to use plastic or some cloth to wrap around the injury area to alleviate the pain.
Another alternative is to use tea. Some people use tea bags on injuries. Even though there isn’t any conclusive study on its effectiveness, many people report that it does work. You have to dip the tea bag on hot water, let it cool off, and then apply it on the injury area.
How To Make Your Own Ice Pack
In case you don’t have a proper ice pack or yours keep melting and forming ice blocks, you can make your own. Depending on the injury that you do have, it is unpractical that you have an ice pack that keeps melting.
So, the best you can do is to improvise your own ice pack. Get a plastic bag and place ice cubes and a cup of water in it. Then, add a few tablespoons of rubbing alcohol as well. Lastly, seal the bag and you’re good to go. The rubbing alcohol will prevent the formation of ice blocks in the freezer. This will get you the perfect homemade ice pack.
Now, it’s important to point out that even though you can totally use this more than once, it’s ideal that you get a proper ice pack if you’re going to be using long-term. This is a perfect solution if you need to ice the injury immediately and has nothing available. Just put the homemade ice pack in the freezer until the ice cubes are formed and you need the pack for the injury.
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So, that’s it. You can use the ice pack, especially if you’re trying to minimize the swelling in your injury. You can also use other alternatives but the best you can do is to apply the ice pack directly onto the injury area. The point is that if you’re icing an injury, that you do not do it for any longer than 10 minutes at a time and that you keep doing as long as the swelling is visible or your physical therapist tells you to.