The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, May 7, 2000

Nurse your injuries with ICE
By Anup Deb Nath

MINOR injuries are a part of exercising and many people, particularly athletes and sports people or keen exercise lovers find that at some or the other time they are troubled by this. No matter how careful you are or how religiously you follow the warm up and cool down routines there are times when your body is stressed out or you just accidentally end up injuring your body.

If the injury is minor or caused by overuse of the muscle, then there are simple ways to take care of the problem at home itself. There are four basic methods recommended, which can help speed up recovery from minor injuries.

RICE is the acronym used for the four basic methods. R stands for rest. Rest is best for minor injuries as well as any injuries which are a result of overuse of the area or muscle and tendons. Just by not using the area that has been injured and allowing it to rest, many minor injuries heal within a few days. For a muscular injury to heal, it needs to be immobilised for three to four days after the injury takes place. In case you continue to use the area despite an injury, not only can the problem get aggravated but the chances of a more severe problem seccurring increase. Areas that need to be immobilised can be wrapped in splints, or crepe bandages which will help reduce the stress on the injured body part.

  In case of soft tissue injuries, the best way to expedite recovery is to apply ice to the affected part. I is for ice. In case of most soft tissue injuries, the best way to expedite recovery is to apply ice to the affected part. Ice applications reduce swelling, stem bleeding and reduce inflammation . The ice applications though are effective when applied within the first 24-36 hours of the injury taking place.

The reason ice is a miracle healer is that it can do in minutes what medication often takes days to achieve. When an area is injured, the swelling results in a lack of oxygen to the affected areas which creates cellular damage.

After ice applications, the bleeding stops and the swelling reduces simply by constricting the blood vessels and thereby minimising any damage to the area and surrounding parts. The pain too is reduced by the effect of ice on the pain receptor. as well as by the reduction in swelling. Many people wonder on how long the ice applications need to be applied in order to be effective. Health experts and sports doctors give an easy formula to determine how long ice applications are needed on various body parts of the body to do their job.

The amount of fat between the skin and the injured area, as well as the depth of the injury determines the time you need to apply ice applications for. If the injured area has very little fat then as little as 10 minutes of icing will do. If the area that is injured has more fat, then the time required for the ice to be effective will be 20-30 minutes. It is not necesary to keep the ice on the injured area for the entire duration. The application can be done in stages till the area is numb. Ice is particularly helpful in conditions such as ligament sprains, tendinitis and muscle strain. Over icing though is hazardous too as it can lead to tissue damage.

Ice can be applied to the injured area every two hours or so if the injury is severe and two to three times a day, if the problem is not too severe. Greater the pain and muscle spasms, the more frequent should be ice applications. Once the injury has recovered, which is often within 72 hours or so, and the bleeding and swelling have both subsided then ice apptication can be stopped and heat applications can be used instead. Heat is also very important in the process of healing the injured area. It increases the blood flow and the stretchability of the tissues and decreases pain, muscle spasms and reduces joint stiffness.

The C is for compression, and its used to decrease the bleeding as well as as the hamorrhage. The area should be compressed right through the day and the compress should be removed at night while sleeping. If possible the injured area should be elevated to a position, above the heart.

Elevation is also a very good way to reduce swelling and control the bleeding. Elevating the injured area above the heart will help in decreasing the bleeding as well as preventing fluids from pooling and getting stored in the injured area. Elevation at night is particularly important as this is the time when the body processes naturally slow down. Following the easy principles of RICE can help you remove minor injuries safely and quickly and these can also be used as basic first aid principles which can help others in the event of an injury.