R.I.C.E. - Ice Therapy
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Injury during sports activities or otherwise is something which everyone has to deal with at some point of time. If you have an injury, the first thing to do is to prevent further harm or damage. Initial treatment for most acute soft tissue injuries such as bruises, strains, springs and tears is to prevent and reduce swelling. When soft tissue is damaged it puffs up or possibly bleeds within. Swelling causes pain and loss of movement, which limits the use of the muscles.

The primary treatment for soft tissue injuries is R.I.C.E. - rest, ice, compression and elevation.

Rest means to discontinue activity; this gives the tissues time to repair.

Compression of a heightened injury is the next most important instant treatment. By quickly covering the injured body part with an expandable bandage or wrap you assist in keeping the swelling to a minimum.

Elevating the injured part to lessen circulation should be the next step. This should usually be done after having applied ice to the injured area to prevent or decrease the swelling. Never apply heat to an acute injury as it augments circulation and swelling.

R.I.C.E. Ice therapy:

Ice therapy, also known as cryotherapy, works on the principle of heat exchange. This occurs when you bring 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, ice decreases muscle spasms, pain, and inflammation to bone and soft tissue. Ice can be used initially at the site of discomfort, pain, or injury.

Four Stages in Ice Therapy:

The first stage is cold, the second is burning, and the third stage is aching, which can sometimes hurt worse than the pain. The fourth and most important stage is numbness. As soon as this stage is achieved, remove the ice. Time duration depends upon body weight. Twenty to thirty minutes should be the maximum time per area. If it is necessary to reapply ice, let the skin go to normal temperature or go back to the third stage of aching.

Function of R.I.C.E.- Ice Therapy

The tissue damage can cause uncontrolled swelling during an initial injury. This swelling can increase the damage of the initial injury besides delaying the healing time. Ice reduces the amount of swelling; it also decreases tissue damage, blood clot formation, inflammation, muscle spasms, and pain. Simultaneously, ice enhances the flow of nutrients into the area, aids in the removal of metabolites (waste products), increases strength, and promotes healing.

Ice initially constricts local blood vessels and decreases tissue temperature, this constriction decreases blood flow and cell metabolism, which can limit hemorrhage and cell death in an acute traumatic injury. After approximately 20 minutes of ice, blood vessels in the injured area then dilate (open) slowly, increasing the tissue temperature and blood flow, an effect which is termed as reactive vasodilatation. A study reported in the Journal of Orthopedic Sports Physical Therapy, (Jul/Aug, 1994), found that, despite the reactive vasodilatation, there was a significant sustained reduction in local blood volume after ice was applied.

Ice is safe

Ice therapy is very safe when used within the treatment time recommended. Don't use ice if you have the following conditions: rheumatoid arthritis, cold allergic conditions, paralysis or areas of impaired sensation. Do not use ice directly over superficial nerve areas.

Ice should be used often and for brief 10-minute intervals, rather than for more prolonged periods of time. It is a good recommendation. After all, overly long applications of ice can result in frostbite injury to the skin, nerve damage, and increased swelling and inflammation.