FYI: Ice vs. Heat
I would just like to clear up any confusion that anyone may have regarding the use of ice and heat. Which modality you use is a crucial factor in determing the amount of time it takes for an injury to heal. For example, when it comes to a sprained ankle, icing within the first ten minutes can actually take days or even weeks off healing time. On the other hand, applying heat can cause excess inflammation and a prolonged recovery.
Cynotherapy, treatment with ice, should be done ASAP after an accident has occurred. When an injury is sustained the affected tissue bleeds and could potentially damage the surrounding tissues. Eventually, the body will try to remove the dead/injured cells from the injury site through inflammation. (Healing can only occur when the inflammatory process is complete.) The purpose of icing is to limit bleeding of the injured tissues and prevent further damage to the surrounding tissues. The process by which the blood vessels constrict with less blood flow is called vasoconstrictation. Most bleeding occurs right after an injury is sustained, so, therefore, icing ASAP results in less damage to the cells and a reduction in the amount of time required for healing. Another benefit of icing is a decrease in pain because of slowed nerve impulses.
Icing can be done in many different ways. Some of the most common include: reusable cold packs, ice water immersion, and ice massage. Ice massage is the most effective method of cynotherapy because it applies coldness directly to the injury site and helps compress the area somewhat, therefore, reducing inflammation even further. Ice massage is done by freezing styrofoam cups filled with water. Then, the upper portion of the cup is pulled back, leaving an insulated portion to hold on to. The ice should then be rubbed directly onto the injury site in a slow, circular motion. Since ice massage is so effective, it should only be done for 7-10 minutes at a time as compared to reusable ice packs and ice water immersion, which should be done for 20-30 minutes at a time.
Thermotherapy, treatment with heat, should only be done when absolutely no inflammation is present. Heat causes the blood vessels to receive a greater blood supply. When there is no inflammation present, this can have a positive effect because an increased amount of oxygen and nutrients to the damaged cells will speed up healing. However, applying heat in the presence of inflammation will result in further bleeding of the injured tissues. When in doubt use ice!
Like ice, heat can be applied in many different ways. For example, heat packs, radiant heat, and ultrasound. Heat packs are the most commonly used, however make sure that towels are placed between the skin and packs to prevent burning. Radiant heat involves the use of an infrared lamp, which is quite useful when treating large area. Ultrasound is the most effective method for applying heat because it penetrates deep into the affected tissue. However, it is only available with a prescription from a doctor.
Whew. That was a lot! Anyhow, I hope everyone will know what to do next time they’ve got an injury!