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Workout Injury? Put It on Ice

By Carol Krucoff
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, October 20, 1998; Page Z20

For virtually any sports injury--from a black eye to a sprained ankle--the best treatment is ICE:

REST the injury until inflammation subsides, usually 24 to 72 hours.

ICE it immediately for 10-to-30 minutes, then take a break of 30 to 45 minutes before the next 10-to-30-minute icing session.

COMPRESS the area with an elastic bandage or tape.

ELEVATE the injured area.

Ice is an essential, but often neglected, part of this formula--possibly because many people remain confused about which to apply when they get hurt, ice or heat. The general rule is this: Ice for the first 48 to 72 hours, heat after. And when in doubt, apply ice. It's the most effective, safest and cheapest form of treatment.

Ice regularly for the first several days and continue intermittent icing for up to seven days, particularly for severe injuries. To apply, place crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover the injured area with a thin, wet towel, then place the plastic bag of ice over the injured area.

Some athletes freeze paper cups of water to use for ice massages. Just peel back the paper cup as you rub the ice on the area.

Mothers know that Popsicles make great "ice packs" for kids with split lips. And a bag of frozen corn or peas works nicely as a sort of pliable ice pack for curved places like elbows or knees.

Or try this homemade "flexible slush pack," recommended by Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit Samuelson in her book "Running for Women" (Rodale Press, 1995):

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup rubbing alcohol

2 resealable sandwich-size plastic bags

Put the water and alcohol into a resealable plastic bag. Push out the bubbles and zip up. Seal within a second bag and freeze. Use this bag of frozen slush on any sore area. It's best to wrap a damp towel, even a paper towel, around the ice pack when applying it to your skin.

Don't leave ice on too long, since excess exposure could damage skin and nerves. And consult a physician before using ice therapy if you have rheumatoid arthritis, cold allergy, peripheral vascular disease or cold-sensitive conditions such as Raynaud's phenomenon.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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