"Ice it" is a refrain heard from the practice rooms of Dancing with the Stars to the neighborhood soccer field. But actual proof that icing eases the pain of sprains or other bumps and bangs has been lacking. That hole in the evidence has been filled in recent years by rehab experts who've hit the lab. Here's a guide to when ice is nice, and when hot hits the spot. Print, and then tape it inside your medicine cabinet.
The 10-minute Rx. In an ankle-to-ankle study comparing on-and-off icing with longer bouts of intense cold, Irish researchers found that applying a bag of melting ice water for 10 minutes, taking it off for 10, then reapplying it for 10, and so on was a far better pain reliever for a sprain than icing for 20 minutes every 2 hours. Plus, keeping ice on an area for a longer time can actually increase inflammation and swelling, which is exactly what you're trying to prevent.
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