We as physios are often asked whether to apply heat or ice to an injury. Generally heat causes things to expand, swell and inflame. So in the treatment of acute soft tissue or joint injuries & for active/chronic swelling, ice therapy tends to be very effective.
Problems associated with swelling
• The presence of swelling over a joint or soft tissue region will firstly restrict your movement as the joint in question will be blocked from moving through its full range. This will subsequently cause movement adaptations and this can cause secondary issues.
• Swelling also contains chemical irritants, which will irritate your nerve endings, causing further pain.
• The build-up of pressure due to swelling can also lead to pain and will restrict movement further.
Benefits of ice therapy
• Ice reduces swelling by decreasing the permeability of the envelope of the muscle and by causing vasoconstriction of the small blood vessels
• Ice reduces the nerve conduction velocity, therefore producing an analgesic effect to reduce pain
• Ice can help reduce any internal soft tissue bleeding straight after injury
• Ice reduces metabolic stress post intense exercise
• Ice facilities metabolic clearance
The evidence is also in favour of ice combined with compression. At Ken Physio we hire out Game Ready units, which can be used around the hip, shoulder and knee. These units are used with a sleeve which draws in ice old water and adds in gentle compression around the affected joint. They are excellent for reducing swelling and great post operatively to reduce pain as well.
Precautions in applying ice
• Never apply ice directly to the skin. Always wrap it in a tea towel or use a sleeve
• Only apply ice for up to 20 mins at a time
• Never apply ice over fragile, broken, infected skin
• Do not apply ice over areas of decreased sensation. This may be a caution in those with diabetes or nerve damage
• If the swelling is not reducing, seek medical advice. There may be an underlying fracture, structural issue or infection.
For any further information or to hire a Game Ready unit please contact Kensington Physio on 02076030040 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org