Ice for injuries - for swelling, pain, or both?
In general, ice/cold, is for PAIN. The cold is a counter-irritant. Does it really decrease swelling? this is debatable. There is plenty of literature published on the science behind this. If you cool an area of skin/muscle down the body’s natural response is to regain homeostasis (37 degC), so it sends increased blood flow to the area to heat it up aka Rebound Phenomena. NOT what you want if you are in fact trying to decrease swelling. Additionally, avoid putting ice on the spine for spinal pain – it may increase muscle activity/spasm. If you want to use ice, for pain control, use it on peripheral joints AFTER you compress it. Compression is the best way to reduce swelling in peripheral joints. Elevation – sure, but it only really works while it is elevated. As soon as you lower the region e.g. ankle, knee, elbow…] gravity will allow the blood to flow back into the area.