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Snowpack reusable ice bag

The Power of Ice
by Ann Genetti
SnowPack Health Reporter
 
 

Using ice to treat injuries is one of the oldest methods of pain control. Proven to be safe and effective at reducing swelling, relieving pain and decreasing muscle spasms, ice therapy is an easy self-care technique that anyone can administer. Every mother knows to put ice on a bruised knee after a soccer game or on a teething toddler’s tender gums. But do you really know how ice works?

 

 
Cold therapy, also known as cryotherapy, works on the principle of heat exchange. This occurs when you place a cooler object in direct contact with an object of warmer temperature, such as ice against skin. The cooler object will absorb the heat of the warmer object. Why is this important when it comes to cold therapy?

After an injury, blood vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients to cells are damaged. The cells around the injury increase their metabolism in an effort to consume more oxygen. When all of the oxygen is used up, the cells die. Also, the damaged blood vessels cannot remove waste. Blood cells and fluid seep into spaces around the muscle, resulting in swelling and bruising. When ice is applied, it lowers the temperature of the damaged tissue through heat exchange and constricts local blood vessels. This slows metabolism and the consumption of oxygen, therefore reducing the rate of cell damage and decreasing fluid build-up. Ice can also numb nerve endings. This stops the transfer of impulses to the brain that register as pain.

Most therapists and doctors advise not to use heat right after an injury, as this will have the opposite effect of ice. Heat increases blood flow and relaxes muscles. It's good for stretching tight muscles, but will only increase pain and swelling by accelerating metabolism.

At a recent marathon event, our staff witnessed the effect of ice versus heat. A petite grandmother danced by our booth. "It worked!" she called out. "I was using heat on my knee, but it didn't get rid of the pain. Last night I followed your advice and iced*. Now I'm dancing! Today I can run the 5K with my grandson." And with that, she happily jogged off to the starting line – a perfect example of the benefit of icing.
When it comes to cooling devices, different effects will result due to the device’s ability to exchange heat. Crushed ice packs* do a better job at cooling the body than chemical/gel packs, because they last longer and are able to draw four times the amount of heat out of tissue. The important difference is that ice packs undergo phase change, allowing them to last longer at an even temperature, creating a more effective treatment. Most chemical/gel packs do not undergo phase change. They quickly loose their ability to transfer heat, limiting their effectiveness to reduce swelling. Their short duration of cold is not long enough to numb nerve endings, also reducing their ability to relieve pain.

Cold therapy should always be used as soon as possible after an injury occurs and continued for the following 48 hours at 15–20 minutes intervals. Remember – if you hurt yourself, you need to ice!

*Note: SnowPack Cold Therapy acts and feels just like crushed ice. It freezes at virtually the same temperature and has the same melting curve as ice. Also like ice, it goes through phase change, allowing for over 2 hours of treatment.

Sources:
Cold Steerage by Mack D. Rubley, PhD, ATC; BioMechanics
Cold Comfort: If you've got an ache, try an ice pack by Virginia Gilbert;St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Ice Therapy by Laurel J. Freeman, B.A., Footnotes, Road Runners Club of America

Disclaimer: This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical treatment or consultation. Always consult with your physician in the event of a serious injury.
 
This is a Free-Reprint Article. Permission granted to redistribute with the acknowledgement of the following: written by Ann Genetti, SnowPack Health Reporter; SnowPack Cold Therapy
 

 

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Last modified: 01/03/19 by
Using ice to treat injuries is one of the oldest methods of pain control.