How to Ice an Injury Properly

So, you’ve injured yourself. I mean, you didn’t break any bones and it’s most likely a strain, sprain, or pull.  Doctor tells you to follow the RICE method and if there’s still a lot of swelling and pain after a week to come back for x-ray. Or the doctor sends you to physical therapy (PT) and they tell you to use the RICE method. Or you play doctor yourself and figure that RICE is the way to go.  You know RICE, rest injury, ice injury, compress the area if possible, and keep the injured area elevated above the heart. Piece of cake, right? Well, not really.

Everyone’s heard about the RICE method. It’s one of the most common treatments for a soft-tissue injury.  It seems, too, that everyone has their own type of RICE method as well.  One area where I personally have never found consistency on, was the ice part of RICE.  No matter who I ask, I hear 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, all the way up to 40 minutes of icing the area of trauma.  Why the variation in how long to apply ice?

So, let’s just focus on icing an injury.  Let’s pretend that you’ve got a sprained ankle.  A moderate grade 2 injury.  You’ve started the Rest stage by waiting a whopping 8 hours before you try to engage your ankle.  Now you want to ice it.  Here’s a procedure to follow when icing:

1.  Get a large bowl of water.  Fill it 2/3 with ice. Fill the rest of the bowl with water.  Wait 3-5 minutes to let the water cool down to almost freezing.

2.  Take a couple of ice cubes and wrap it in a washcloth.  Dip the washcloth into the cold water.

3.  Apply the wet washcloth with ice to the injured area.

4.  10 minutes of application on the injured part of the ankle.

5.  20 minutes off.  (Here, you can work on range of motion with the injured ankle, or you can elevate the ankle and rest it.)

6.  You can repeat step 4 and 5, if you’d like.  No more than 4 cycles of this at one session.


Here’s some research to back up what I’ve said above about icing an injury:

This research study reinforces the above said techniques for icing an injury –

This research study says that there is benefit to cryotherapy to sports injury –

This is a research study on cryotherapy treatment of soft tissue injury using rats as the test subject –

As always, seek out professional help when necessary!

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