A hallmark sign of an acute injury is inflammation, which is the body’s immediate and necessary response to injury or tissue damage. The cause may be that you rolled your ankle, twisted the wrong way lifting an object, had recent surgery, or maybe you are fighting an infection. What happens with inflammation is your blood vessels dilate to become wider (vasodialation) and increase their permeability. This increase in blood flow and absorption allows fast delivery of nutrients and specific cells needed for tissue repair as well as efficient removal of waste products.
Signs of Inflammation
The five characteristics to help you identify the
signs and symptoms of inflammation include:
1) Redness (From increased blood flow)
2) Heat (From increased blood flow)
3) Swelling (From increased blood flow, and leakage of fluid into tissues)
4) Pain (Usually is 5 or above on a pain scale of 10)
5) Altered function, i.e. can’t move affected area due to pain, swelling
An acute injury usually lasts 48 hours, but may last up to 4 days post injury.
Why Treat With Cold?
You may be asking yourself. “If inflammation is needed to help the body heal and repair itself, why stop it?” The body’s inflammatory response is often excessive in comparison to the injury. Therefore, we want to control the intensity of the inflammation to help reduce symptoms like pain.
When you apply cold to an injury your blood vessels narrow. This narrowing reduces the circulation to the area resulting in a decrease in swelling. Further, with an application of cold, the skin temperature drops which produces an analgesic/numbing effect, which helps to manage the pain.
How Do I Treat With Cold?
To treat an acute injury apply cold to the affected area for 10-15 min. Or you can alternate 10min of ice on, 10min of ice off and repeat three times. You can use an ice pack, frozen bag of vegetables, or ice cubes wrapped in a cloth. You will need to use a towel/cloth as a barrier between your skin and the cold application. If you are not sure how your skin will react to a cold application, it is best to check your skin after a minute or so to ensure there is no irritation.
During the cold application you will feel the following:
2) Burning, tingling, or itching
Once you have reached the numb stage, the cold application has been on long enough. Also to assist with an acute injury follow the four easy steps of RICE
4) Elevate the area
You should not use cold applications if you have the following:
Circulatory pathologies such as Raynaud’s
Sensory changes (i.e. decreased skin sensitivity to temperature)
“Cold allergy” or cold sensitivity