How Does Icing Help Swelling?

Ice treatment is a cost-effective way of reducing pain and controlling inflammation in an injured part of the body. It’s not only cost-effective, but it’s also fast when it comes to pain relief and can be done by yourself at home. But for icing to be effective, it must be used to treat the right injury and at the right time. Also, icing can become harmful when it is misused.  First, let’s look at what icing is all about.
 
Ice treatment is also known as cryotherapy or cold therapy. Ice treatment is the application of ice to an area of the body to reduce bleeding, pain, inflammation, and speed up the process of healing. Ice treatment can be used for fresh injuries as well as old or chronic problems. The main reason why ice treatment is effective is because of the numbing effect of the cold which slows the blood flow into the area, helping to reduce the sensitivity of the area and the amount of pain felt.
 
Ice treatment is mostly used for fresh injuries such as ligaments sprains, and severe bruises. When you damage tissue, and it becomes inflamed, or the skin becomes red, ice treatment is the ideal treatment to bring down the pain and reduce the swelling. You can also use ice treatment for chronic overuse and tissue fatigue injuries such as tennis elbow, iliotibial band syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, patellofemoral pain syndrome, and supraspinatus tendinitis. It can also help to reduce the symptoms of arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
 
 


 
 

How Icing Helps Swelling

 
When a part of the body is injured, fluid accumulates in the area causing it to swell. The swelling is inflammation, a defense mechanism of the body. Inflammation causes antibodies to concentrate in the area. But the chemicals in the fluid are both good and bad. Some help to hasten the healing process while some are bad and irritate the nerves, thus causing pain. The swelling also makes the area tight due to the increased pressure, and this limits the movement of the body party.
 
When ice is applied to this area, it does two things. First, cold is analgesic, and it helps to wear off the pain by numbing the nerve fibers. Second, ice will reduce the temperature of the area, reducing the bleeding in the tissues and joints and this brings down the swelling and muscle spasms in that part of the body.
 
 

Ice Treatment Options

 
Ice treatment can be used in various ways, including:

  1. Ice cubes/crushed ice – If you can’t buy ice packs, you can use the ice cubes from your fridge. Use the ice cubes or crush and then place in a sealed plastic bag, adding some water so that the ice can mold to your shape.  You can also use frozen vegetables such as peas and leafy vegetables in a pack for ice treatment.
  2. Frozen ice cups – Ice cups are also a good way of applying ice treatment. There are specially designed ice cups, but you can also make your own at home. You can use Styrofoam or paper cups. Fill the cup with water and freeze. When you need it remove the cup and remove the upper part of the cup to leave some ice bare. Then apply the ice directly to your skin continuously in a circular or patterned movement to prevent an ice burn. When your skin is numb,stop. As the ice melts, peel back the paper to reveal more ice.
  3. Instant Ice Packs – Instant ice packs are chemicals that become cold when squeezed. They are perfect for outdoors when you don’t have access to a freezer, but they don’t last as long as ice.
  4. Ice packs/wraps – Ice treatment can be applied with ice packs and ice wraps which you can buy at most stores. These ice packs are designed specially for ice treatment and conform properly to your shape. They also deliver cold for longer periods and are available in different shapes and sizes.
  5. Cryo Cuffs – These are used by athletes after surgeries. Cryo cuffs usually deliver the coldness for longer periods compared to other forms of ice treatment and are specifically designed for a particular body part. For example:

 


 

Final Word About Icing

 
Under normal circumstances, ice treatment should only be applied for about 15-20 minutes every two hours. Unless your doctor/physician suggests something else, try to avoid doing it longer than that to avoid damaging the tissue or causing dilation of the blood vessels. You can also apply ice for 2-3 minutes and repeat throughout the day. Ice treatment is most effective when repeatedly applied every day. Also, when applying ice, don’t apply it to the skin directly. Always place a thin dry cloth on the skin before applying. You can, however, apply ice directly to the skin when you are using an ice cup.

Please keep in mind that icing (or cold therapy) is not a healing method per se. It is an analgesic that helps you manage the pain and swelling so that the healing process is bearable.
 
Disclaimer: We are not medical practitioners here at Cold and Hot Therapy Shop. The information that we mentioned in today’s article was for informational purposes only. You should always consult a doctor to get a proper diagnosis.

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