Monday, 22 May 2017

Icing Advice

What to do in the early stages of a muscle injury.

Muscular injuries come in many forms and often it's hard to place your finger on exactly how you came to be in such acute pain. There are the obvious times when you are partaking in some kind of physical activity and you suffer a y sharp pain which inhibits you from taking another step, and there are the other days where you struggle to understand quite how you came to hurt yourself. Either way you are now in the Acute stage of injury which last approx. 48 – 72 hours.

Icing and the Acute Stage of Injury.

This is where Ice comes into play. Ice is part of the basic first aid protocol known as R.I.C.E. standing for Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Depending on the type of injury the use of each of these treatments but the two that are vital are Ice and Compression.

Ice cools the affected site and therefore reduces the heat generated by the body. This cooling effect reduces the metabolic rate and restricts the cells and vascular system from pouring fluid out and building up pressure, helping to reduce the pain and discomfort. Ice also has an analgesic (pain relieving) effect.

N.B. The one most important thing to address is the way in which you apply the ice. Please remember to always apply ice through a wet cloth. Ice directly on the skin will burn and using a wet cloth will help to allow the cold to penetrate into the tissues.

Coupled with Ice is Compression (not tight but like a compression sock tightness, a bandage or tape can also used). If possible it is good practice to use Ice with Compression because this allows the temperature to penetrate more deeply into the tissues.

The compression aids to reduce swelling as by increasing the pressure within the tissues this results in decreased perfusion (restricting fluid loss from the damaged cells) and it helps to immobilize and protect the joint.

How long to Ice for?

This is important because there is an optimal amount of time for this procedure and icing for too long can have the opposite affect to what you had intended.

Because different areas of the body require different time to ice you can use this simple formula - When the skin turns pale you can stop icing. Any longer and the skin starts to turn red. This is because the body is reacting to the ice in order to stop the chances of frost bite. To do this the body rushes blood to the area, which is exactly what you were trying to reduce with the ice in the first place.

Once the skin has turned pale, remove the ice and allow the area to return to its normal temperature. When the heat starts to build up once more then ice again.

Remember good hydration/nutrition, and good resting/keeping relaxed and not “up tight” about the injury are also very important for healing.

Ice v Heat

Icing in the first few days, the acute stage of injury, outweighs the benefits of heat to an injured area, mostly because it helps to control the swelling and inflammation. Heat has the effect of increasing blood flow to an area, and therefore increasing the pressure and more importantly the metabolic rate of the tissues. This increase in metabolic rate is hugely damaging to the tissues around the injury site making the recovery time longer. The original area of injury that needed to repair grows larger as this increased metabolic rate damages more cells. Heat generation is a natural part of the body’s reaction to injury but too much for too long can slow down the healing process.

Post the acute stage of injury a mixture of ice and heat is beneficial.