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Why Ice?

January 21, 2017




Have you ever picked up a minor injury, strain or tweak and been unsure of whether to get the frozen peas or the hot water bottle?


The best course of treatment is ICE and the best time to do it is ASAP.


At the first sign of injury the bodies’ response is inflammation. This can be a good thing because it makes you aware that there is a problem by causing pain and preventing you from doing more damage through excessive movement.


But sometimes the bodies’ inflammation response can be overkill and we need to kick-start the recovery process to allow it to heal. This can’t happen when it’s inflamed.


So we need to put out the flames – with ice.



But how do you know if it’s inflamed?

·       Heat/redness

·       Swelling

·       Pain

·       Dysfunction


From the first sign of injury until up to 5 days after, the injury will be in the acute stage and will be inflamed. This is natural and healthy but we can help it on its way by doing a few things.


You’ve probably heard of RICE

R – est

I – ce

C – ompression

E – levation


All of these things are important but Ice is what will really get things moving and here are just a few of the things it does for us:


·       Pain reduction – Ice doesn’t just ‘numb’ the area. The sensory nerves around the area being iced relay messages to the central nervous system faster than the pain signals, beating them to it. So pain is reduced. This is known as the ‘Pain-gate theory’.


·       Slows and thickens blood flow – this allows white blood cells to stick around and do their job – repairing the damage.


·       Reduces swelling


·       Reduces muscle spasm


·       Stimulates the neuromuscular system




What’s the best time to apply Ice?


Anytime! It’s never too late to apply it to an injury but the most effective time is within 20 minutes of the injury happening



How often should I apply it?


For 10-20 minutes every 2 hours during the first 2 days after the injury



How should I apply it?


The ice should never make direct contact with your skin, you can use a towel or clothing.



What can I use?


If you’re not fortunate enough to have an ice-pack to hand you can use frozen peas, which mould themselves nicely around body parts or anything else from the freezer. Even cold water from the tap is better than nothing.



The same principles apply to chronic/long-term injuries such as tendinitis and bursitis. ‘itis’ means ‘inflammation of’ so any one of these conditions would benefit from some ice therapy before being rehabilitated.




There are some instances that you shouldn’t use ice.


Each injury has to be considered individually but if you are elderly, hyper-sensitive, have circulatory or cardiac problems, Raynaud’s disease, diabetes or recently had chemotherapy, then leave the ice and consult your GP.


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