This is one of the most common questions I hear in the clinic on a daily basis, as well as patients disbelief in the power of icing for more than just 24-48 hours after an injury and in particular after surgery. Part of the body’s healing process is sending inflammatory components to the injury site to begin the tissue break-down and rebuilding process after both injury and surgery. As you progress through the rehabilitation process, every time you increase your activity level, such as returning to school or work, discontinuing use of your crutches or walker, increase your distance in walking, perform trips up and down the stairs, and progress your rehab program into higher level exercises, ice is critical to mitigate the body’s natural inflammatory response to this increased stress to the area of healing.
Icing for 15-20 minute intervals is best for decreasing swelling of an area after injury or surgery. Wait about 1-1.5 hours before using ice again to best see this effect. If using ice purely for pain control or to help wean off pain medication after a surgery, you can use ice for longer periods of time as long as your skin does not get uncomfortably cold. Adding elevation of the injury area while using ice, such as propping up your foot or knee, can further help reduce pain and swelling in a region. If the ice seems too cold, you can use a pillow case or towel to create a barrier between your skin and the ice.
Icing is an integral part of any athletes/patients recovery routine. Save yourself the struggle of setting up at home and stop by the clinic to give our Game Ready® cold compression units a try. We promise you won’t regret it.
Marcus Walker, DPT