Icing a sprained ankle

Injuries are zero fun. If you’ve played any sport, chances are you’ve had the misfortune of experiencing an injury. You don’t have to be an athlete to face the pain of  an injury. However you hurt yourself, you want the pain to go away. As soon as an injury occurs, you need to contact a doctor or call an ambulance if the injury is bad enough. If you have a minor sprain, strain, or sore throwing shoulder, etc. you will have to decide whether you should apply ice or apply heat to the affected area.

Both ice and heat have their benefits, but using them improperly on the wrong type of injury will do little for your pain or healing. As a general rule of thumb, you should apply ice when you have pain and swelling and apply heat when you have stiffness and tight muscles. But aren’t tight muscles painful? They can be, so this is where you have to think (a little). For instance, if you have neck pain that refers to another area (like down your arm into your hand), it’s nerve related. You will need to apply ice. If you wake up with a stiff neck, and the pain is local and specific to a part of the neck, you should apply heat. The muscles that are responsible for you posture, like your neck, middle back, and lower back will most often require heat to relax the muscles. Heat does increase blood flow and promote healing, but it should not be applied to an acute injury as increased swelling could occur.

It should be a no-brainer to put ice on a sprained ankle (or other body part) as soon as you can. The ice will restrict blood flow and keep the nerves from reacting in a terribly painful way. The swelling will also be reduced and avoided with the application of ice. The same is true of an injury that didn’t occur today. An injury that caused trauma will repeatedly swell, so ice should be repeatedly applied. One way to apply ice is to stick your injured limb into a bucket of ice. This isn’t the most pleasant experience, but an ice massage can be slightly less uncomfortable. Massaging the painful area with an ice cube will loosen the soft tissue.

Whether you are applying ice or heat, neither should be used for more than 30 minutes. Heating pads are great, but be sure to stay awake! Ice should never be placed directly on the skin.