The use of ice massage is vital for immediate treatment for acute injuries such as strains, sprains, contusions, overuse injuries and bruises.
Why apply ice for soft tissue injuries?
The application of ice to soft tissue injuries can help minimize the inflammation and swelling by reducing the flow of blood to the injured area. Ice helps provide momentarily relief to pain after sustaining an acute or traumatic injury. One way to achieve the best results is to use ice during the 48 hours after the injury before the swelling becomes evident.
It is important to note the ice therapy reduces the temperature of the damaged tissues by 10-15 degrees for momentary, repeated periods of time. This approach seems to provide the best results.
Use ice massage for soft tissue injuries
Ice massage is considered as the most effective method in applying ice to injuries. The easiest way to perform ice massage on an injury is to freeze water in a small paper cup. Once frozen, tear the cup to expose the ice. Elevate the injured body part higher than the level of the heart to minimize swelling and massage the area.
Continue to move the ice in a circular motion for 10 minutes. Avoid holding the ice in one place. Once the ice melts, you have to tear down the sides of the cup to expose the entire ice. A handy way to perform ice massage is to keep paper cups filled with water in the freezer.
Repeat the ice massage
An effective and safest approach in using ice is repeated application of ice for 10 minutes at a time. You have to enable the damaged body part to warm up for a minimum of an hour prior to repeating the ice massage again.
Repeated application of ice can help withstand diminished muscle temperature without damaging the skin. This will also allow the temperature of the upper skin layer to return to normal while the temperature of the deeper muscles stays low.
Time length of ice massage
The length of time to continue the ice massage cycle usually depends on the amount of pain and swelling as well as the extent of injury and personal preference of the individual. Generally, you can repeat the ice massage 3-5 times in a day in the initial 24-48 hours to achieve the best results. After 48 hours, there is limited proof that ice can improve the healing time.
Important considerations to bear in mind
The application of ice too long can lead to further damage to the soft tissues and even result to frostbite.
Always bear in mind that the reflexes and motor functions are also impaired right after ice treatment, thus the individual might be prone to injury for up to 30 minutes after treatment. Due to this, avoid using the injured part until the tissue has warmed up.
Alternate ice methods
If an ice massage is not the preferred method by the individual, you can utilize a small-sized zipper bag containing crushed ice, pack of frozen peas or a commercial ice pack. With these alternative options, make sure that you will use a thin towel or other protective barrier between the skin and the ice. You can leave the ice in place for about 15 minutes at a time. Just be careful not to let the ice sit on the skin. Make sure to continuously move the ice or utilize a thin towel in between the ice and skin.