I have been writing material for the Active IQ level 4 Certificate in Sports Massage which we start delivering in July and had been working on the topic of icing an injury. It started me thinking about how many clients and students ask me about icing any injury. Things like how and when to use it, does it work and so on.

So I though I would expand out from the material I was writing and put a blog together as well. So here we go.

What is ice used for?

Icing is primarily used for the acute stage of injury and the sooner you get the ice on generally the better. This is best suited for closed injuries so not bleeding. It can be used in other cases for example to try and stimulate the healing process in chronic issues.

What’s the goal of icing?

It is believed to reduce the inflammatory reaction in the body but mainly to attempt to alleviate pain. It probably won’t get rid of the pain completely but can help to dull or reduce the pain felt.

What is inflammation?

Before I go further what is inflammation? inflammation is the bodies way of protecting itself and starting the healing process, it’s a bit like a first aider turning up before the ambulance arrives. The idea of inflammation is to stop you making it worse and carry out any urgent actions like stop bleeding it then contacts the ambulance which comes along and sort things out properly.

What can be used for icing an injury?

You can use a variety of tools to ice with, there are reusable and one-use ice packs. Frozen peas (other vegetables are available) are a favorite, cyro cuffs are more expensive but an option and plan old crushed ice.

Ice for Icing

How to go about icing and injury?

You need to protect the skin from the ice when you use it. This could be wrap it in a towel or cloth. It is very rare ice should be used directly on the skin. Good guidance should be sort from your practitioner if you plan to use ice directly on the skin.

How long should you ice for? This depends how bulky the muscle is you are treating. If you are icing the elbow then it will only be a couple of minutes if you are icing a quad then it will be closer to 10 mins. You only leave the ice on until it goes numb you should then stop icing. You can ice several times a day, you need to allow the skin to return to normal room temperature before you reapply.

There are a few medical conditions you shouldn’t ice with or seek medical guidance first. So anywhere where there is altered sensation of the skin, if it’s very fragile, if there are circulatory issues to mention a couple.

Reactions to icing an injury

In rare cases when you ice you can get reactions from the icing an injury. The most common being ice burns, this comes from leaving the ice on to long or not protecting the skin. Less common issues are loss of circulation, discomfort or pain, sudden increase in blood pressure, uncontrolled shivering, tiredness and fatigue, abnormal breathing patterns, confusions and irregular pulse. If any of these occur treatment should be ceased and medical attention sort.

This is only a little insight in to how and when to carry out icing an injury. If you want to treat yourself with cryotherapy make sure you do you research first, but hopefully this will give you a starting point. There is some useful information on the NHS website for treatment of injuries. Heat is another option for self-treatment or alternating hot and cold. I’ll put a blog together on that topic at some point.