Treat Sports Injuries Using Ice

Heat or ice?

Confusion about the use of ice or heat when an injury is very common . The objective of this article is to demystify the different beliefs and to clarify the effects , relevance of use and modes of application of ice and heat .

The rapid response to an injury is as important as prevention. You have at your fingertips two ways to treat common injuries affecting the extremities , neck and back : heat and ice.

Many people use ice or heat to treat their aches without really knowing the true effects . Contrary to popular belief , there are many similarities between the two , but also large differences should be respected .

The application of ice or heat has an effect on the blood circulation as well as the pain receptors in the skin .

The application of heat :
- Increases blood circulation in the area where it is applied
- Increases cellular activity
- Relaxes muscles
- Promotes tissue elasticity
- Can also reduce pain

The application of ice :
- Decreases blood flow to where it is applied
- Reduced cellular activity and muscle spasms
- Reduces pain
- Causes temporary stiffness

When, how and why

Inflammation is essential for tissue healing . It helps to destroy damaged tissue to allow room for the new cells. This is not the inflammation itself is problematic , but its persistence beyond its normal duration. It is therefore important to act quickly when it appears to control its intensity.

So at the beginning of the acute phase , inflammation appears. It may persist between 48 hours and one week , and even more , depending on the severity of the injury . If one or more symptoms occur :

- The presence of persistent pain
- Local heat
- Local swelling
- Loss of joint mobility
- Obstructed sleep and / or rest and immobilization does not improve the situation

There are signs of persistent inflammation for a period ranging from 48 hours to a week depending on the severity of the injury . During this phase, the applications of ice are recommended.

Ice should be applied to two or three hours during this period to :

- Reduce inflammation
- Reduce the risk of internal bleeding
- Ease the pain (can last 2 to 3 hours)
- To eliminate muscle spasm and involuntary muscle contraction
- Help reduce cellular activity to reduce waste and bacteria linked to inflammation

The application of heat is strongly discouraged during the acute phase so as not to contribute to inflammation .

Later, in the so-called chronic injury when symptoms of inflammation have disappeared phase, the body will repair the damaged tissue. Heat applications are so useful.


- Increase circulation and facilitating the repair of damaged tissue
- Soften fabrics
- Decrease pain

The benefits of heat can be obtained in different ways : dry or moist heat . Moist heat is generally preferred over dry heat because moisture is a good conductor of heat.

1 . moist heat

- The hot bath
- Hot shower
- The hot water bottle covered with a wet towel and applied to the painful area for a period of 20 to 30 minutes , the maximum heat is reached after 10 minutes, and then gradually decreases
- The electrical component with moisture cushion
- Thermal wrap available in pharmacies


There are several simple ways to apply the ice wrapping cold, ice - stick massage and contrast baths.

1 . The cold pack

We suggest wrapping a small bag of frozen vegetables (eg peas or frozen food in the supermarket ) or crushed ice in a wet towel for better transmission of the cold. Frozen vegetables have the advantage of being reusable . You can also use the heat wraps available in pharmacies .

The application ranges from 15 to 20 minutes depending on the treatment area. We initially noted a burning sensation with tingling and mild pain lasting about 5 minutes. Thereafter , the area is frozen and no longer feel anything .

2 . Massages ice - stick

Useful for applications in small areas (10 to 15 cm) of 5 to 10 minutes. Apply in circles .

Making ice stick :
- Fill a styrofoam cup of water
- Put in the freezer until frozen
- Then trim the edge of the glass to release 1 cm of ice and apply

3 . contrast baths

Contrast baths are both applications of heat and ice. They are used for the ends (eg foot, hand, ankle) and are recommended in cases of persistent swelling and rebels applications of heat or ice alone. They increase circulation while reducing stiffness. The application is in two buckets : one containing water between 40 and 43 degrees and the other between 10 and 15 degrees (water and ice ) . This treatment lasts for 15 minutes during which the injured for one minute in hot water region and 30 seconds is immersed in cold water , taking care to complete the application by cold water .


All injuries must be treated as soon as possible to promote rapid healing and complete as possible. The use of physical agents such as heat and ice is an active way to speed healing. However, if after a few days of use, you do not notice any improvement, it is best to consult a physiotherapist or a doctor to assess the condition of your injury.
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