Ice is probably the common method used to treat running injuries. However most runners do not understand how and why it works, and how to get the best result for their particular injury.
How does Ice Therapy actually work?
Ice has two main effects:
- It reduces inflammation by constricting the small blood vessels at the site of injury. This allows less blood to flow through the injured tissue thus limiting swelling and preventing tissue damage.
- It relieves pain by stimulating the production of the body’s own painkiller, endorphin.
How is Ice Therapy applied?
- Ice Cube Massage– Water is frozen in a polystyrene cup and applied using a circular motion for about 10 minutes. This method is most suitable for small areas such as shin, ankle and foot.
- Ice Pack– This is the most effective method of ice application. An ice pack is made with a damp towel filled with crushed ice and applied for 10 minutes for acute injuries and 20-30 minutes for chronic injuries. Commercial re-usable cold packs can also be used but should be wrapped in a damp towel before application to prevent burning of the skin.
- Ice Bath– This involves immersing the ankle and heel in a bath of ice water for 10-20 minutes. This method has proved to be very beneficial with injuries such as Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis and bursitis at the back of the heel.
Ice is thus an easy and uncomplicated way of treating injuries that can be done in the comfort and convenience of your home. Not only does it prevent a minor injury from worsening but it is also very effective in speeding up the healing process of an existing injury and thereby shortening recovery time.
Gary is a physiotherapist based in Linksfield West in Johannesburg. He has a special interest in treating sports injuries, running injuries and orthopaedics. He has also assisted a number of top Comrades and Iron Man athletes with treatment. Read more about Gary here.