Ice in case of inflammation, when and for how long is the application

Does an ice pack or a hot water bottle help with inflammation?
Ice is a remedy for injuries, while heat helps with muscle contractures.

Ice (or cryotherapy) is used for injuries and has a vasoconstrictive effect on the injured tissues, which becomes inflamed. are reddened, overheated and swollen.

The inflammatory process is a healthy, normal and natural process, but can be painful and persistent.
Cold helps relieve the pain of inflammation without taking medication.

One of the advantages of ice packs is that they can be used by everyone, including women in pregnancy and children.
In case of high fever (above 41°C), the doctor can use cryotherapy to lower the body temperature.

Heat is for muscles, chronic pain (decreases pain during muscle spasms and trigger points) and helps relax the nervous system and mind (stress can be an important factor in many chronic pain problems).


What to do about inflammation caused by arthritis?

Often, the patient is advised to place an ice pack on the affected joint to reduce inflammation and pain, especially in the case of sudden joint inflammation.
This can be helpful for many forms of inflammation, including:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Gout
  • Arthrosis
  • Pseudogout
  • Ankylosing spondylitis and many others

However, it must be remembered that ice use usually causes stiffness of the fabrics.
Consequently, at the beginning of the day, a heat treatment that relaxes the muscles around the joints is better, while the ice treatment at the end of the day can reduce the inflammation caused by daily work.

When is it NOT allowed to use ice and heat?

Heat can worsen inflammation and ice can worsen muscle spasms.
Both are useless or harmful when not needed: ice if you already have chills or heat if you sweat.
The brain can interpret an excess in the use of one of the two elements as a threat (and thus increase the pain).

  1. Heat and acute inflammation are a particularly negative combination.
    Adding heat to a recent injury can make the situation worse.
  2. If you put ice on aching muscles, the situation can probably worsen in this case as well.
    Ice can worsen muscle spasms and trigger points, which often occur with pain in the neck and lower back (areas that people try to treat with ice more often).
    Trigger points and severe cramps can be incredibly painful and people think they can easily be treated with cold therapy.

Do not use ice for back pain, headache or neck pain.
It can be used to treat the area around the eye after trauma or the cheek after a dental treatment (for example, extraction of the wisdom tooth).

In case of menstrual pain, you have to put a hot water bottle on your stomach, ice does not relieve the symptoms.

For testicular injuries, cold compresses can help, but you have to be careful with them, because this area is very sensitive.

When do you have to put ice on a joint (for example, on the knee or hand)?

Place cold packs or ice packs on painful or injured areas at least 3 times a day as long as there is pain, swelling and inflammation. For the first 48 hours, apply the ice packs once an hour for 10 minutes.

After that, apply the ice pads for 15-20 minutes 3 times a day: in the morning, in the late afternoon after work or after school and about an hour before bedtime. In addition, ice should also be used after any prolonged exertion or intense physical training.

Always place a cloth between the skin and the ice pack and adapt the ice pack well to the affected area.
Do not put the ice pack on for more than 15-20 minutes and do not fall asleep with the ice on the skin.

How long does the ice have to be laid?

Ideally, you should put the ice pack on within 5-10 minutes after an injury for 20-30 minutes. You can repeat this process every 2-3 hours (during the day when you are awake) for the following 24-48 hours.

Ice helps relieve pain and relax muscle tissue.

How is the ice applied? Here are the most common mistakes

Do not apply the ice pack directly to the skin, as this may cause burns.
The most common mistake is the use of envelopes that are too cold, as this will have the opposite effect.
Cold treatment (cryotherapy) is used to reduce the blood supply to one part of the body.

Excessive cold, on the other hand, increases blood circulation and thus achieves exactly the opposite.

What is the best method for refrigeration?

  1. For hands or feet, it may be sufficient to cool them in the sink under a cold jet of water.
  2. For other parts of the body, a hot water bottle can be filled with cold water and some ice cubes.
  3. If cooled with an ice pack, place a woolen cloth between the bag and the skin.

To check if the cold is too severe, check the skin color after 5 minutes. If it is bright red, remove the ice cover. If the spot is pink, the ice can remain for 20-30 minutes.
If the ice is left on the skin for more than 20-30 minutes at a time, there is a risk of skin damage.

The effect of the ice cover is better if it is slightly pressed against the injured area.

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