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Keeping Things Cool: Ice Therapy

Cool the Pain

Cool therapies are not always comfortable but they can greatly aid the healing process and help you get better quicker. That being said, it is hard to convince someone who has just sprained their ankle on the ice, to put some ice on their ankle. However, the proper application of ice has tremendous therapeutic benefits. Cool therapies  are much more effective than heat in treating actively inflamed tissues. Heat might feel good over an area in inflammation but not everything that feels good for you in the moment is good for you in the long run.  Consequently, heat and active exercise can actually perpetuate and increase spasm and pain. Heat is not bad, but should be used at an appropriate time. Interestingly enough, it has often been said that one should only use ice up to 72 hours; but nobody is really sure where this came from, and this “72 hours” is actually NOT SUPPORTED BY THE LITERATURE.  And certainly not what we see clinically. It is true that the “initial” inflammatory process might last up to 72 hours,  but that does not mean that all the inflammation goes away from that point forward. It actually does not! It’s quite possible for an injury to remain inflamed for a week or more, and longer if you are heating and exercising it less effectively.   If you would like me to explain some of the mechanisms behind all this, I can do that for you during your next appointment, and I usually hand out a free cold pack (if you are well behaved) after your first injury visit if you don’t have one of your own.  Bring it on in and let’s start fixing you up!

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