“When” and “How” to Ice Sports Injuries

Posted on: January 17th, 2013 by Laura No Comments

iceWhenever my daughter comes running in with an “owie”,  I often turn to the freezer for my old stand by… “ice”!

Icing — “cryotherapy” for therapy geeks —is a cheap, effective method for relieving the pain of injuries. It can help sprains, strains, bruises, and tendinitis which are common in sports and hard play! We used to ice our son when he was younger after a long pitching outing. We learned from coaches, that is not  the best method (I’ll write another article on this soon)!

That’s because ice is used as a pain-reliever, it doesn’t really fix anything. Now, if my son was complaining of a “sore” arm, not a “tired” arm, that’s when I will pull out the ice for him.

Ice is also often helpful with chronic overuse or tissue fatigue injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow. Basically if you have inflammation from a sports injury use ice as a means of relieving pain. I’m no doctor and don’t claim to be… but I am a mom and have used ice TONS of injuries. It’s a quick fix before you head to the doctor, if needed…to at least feel like you’re doing “something” for your child in pain.

But there are some tips to proper icing. I got these tips from About.com, which fall in line with everything I’ve learned through the years:

1. Get the ice on quickly.
Icing is most effective in the immediate period following an injury. The effect of icing diminishes significantly after about 48 hours.
2. Perform an “ice massage.”
Apply ice directly to the injury. Move the ice frequently, not allowing it to sit in one spot.
3. Don’t forget to elevate.
Keep the injured body part elevated above the heart while icing — this will further help reduce swelling.
4. Watch the clock.
Ice for 15-20 minutes, but never longer. You can cause further damage to the tissues, including frostbite, by icing for too long.
5. Allow time between treatments.
Allow area to warm for at least 45 minutes or an hour before beginning the icing routine again.
6. Repeat as desired.
Ice as frequently as you wish, so long as the area is warm to touch and has normal sensation before repeating.
Tips:
1. Ice Option 1 — Traditional:
Use a Ziploc bag with ice cubes or crushed ice. Add a little water to the ice bag so it will conform to your body.
2. Ice Option 2 — Best:
Keep paper cups filled with water in your freezer. Peel the top of the cup away and massage the ice-cup over the injury in a circular pattern allowing the ice to melt away.
3. Ice Option 3 — Creative:
Use a bag of frozen peas or corn from the frozen goods section. This option provides a reusable treatment method that is also edible.
4. Prevent Frostbite:
Do not allow ice to sit against the skin without a layer of protection. Either continually move the ice (see “ice massage”) or use a thin towel between the ice and skin.

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