In therapy, I often recommend that a patient use ice when recovering from various types of injuries, especially a recent or acute injury. The acronym RICE is often cited for treatment of an acute injury: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
Ice is an excellent natural anti-inflammatory as it helps to constrict blood vessels and reduces blood flow to the injured area thereby reducing the swelling that soon follows acute injury. As a general rule, place on the area for 10 to 15 minutes. For more chronic injuries that flare up after activity, ice after the activity, not before.
My patients often ask the question, "What's the best way to ice at home?" Or, "What's the best way to make an ice pack?" Here a couple of good options for use at home.
- Buy a big bag of frozen peas and use them, mark them as ICE so you don't eat them!
- Use the ice massage method — Freeze water in dixie cups and then rip off the top edge of the cup, rub the ice directly on the skin but keep it moving constantly for 5 to 10 minutes at the most; this works particularly well for small areas that are closer to the surface
- Make your own reusable gel ice pack with the following recipe: Mix three parts water to one part rubbing alcohol and freeze in a plastic locking bag