Following an injury, it is important to apply ice to help reduce inflammation. For the first 48 hours after an injury, you only want to apply ice. Applying heat will bring more blood to the area and can cause more inflammation.
When using an ice bag, apply the bag directly to the area for 10-20 minutes, elevating and applying compression can also help reduce inflammation. If the ice gets too cold, place a thin towel between the ice and the skin.
Ice massage is another way to reduce inflammation. Fill a small paper cup ¾ full of water and place in the freezer. Once frozen, remove and tear the top of the cup till the ice is exposed. Rub in a circular motion over the injured area for 5-10 minutes. Never leave the ice cup in the same place as this can cause further injury or frostbite.
Ice immersion and/or cold whirlpool are two other forms of cold therapy. Ice immersion is performed by placing the injured extremity in a combination of water and ice with temperatures around 50-60 degrees. Cold whirlpool is similar to ice immersion with temperatures of 50-60 degrees, however there is a turbine circulating water to keep the temperature constant. Range of motion exercises can be performed while the injured extremity is immersed. Ice immersion and cold whirlpool should not be used on an acute injury because gravity can cause more swelling, due to the athlete not being able to elevate the extremity.
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