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When should I use an ICE pack?? Treating Acute Injuries.

When should I use an ICE pack?? Treating Acute Injuries.

Using an ice pack is the one of the best ways to manage the pain and swelling associated with an acute injury and start the healing process.

You might ask the question “When is my injury acute?”. An injury is considered to be acute when it occurs suddenly and often traumatically – like falling off a bike.  The symptoms of an acute injury include the sudden onset of pain, swelling, difficultly weight bearing and restricted ranges of movement.  Examples of acute injuries include sprains, strains and fractures.

How should you treat your acute injury?? Pain and swelling are an immediate indication to stop what you are doing. Never try and ‘work through’ the pain. If your acute injury is serious – broken bones, dislocated joints or concussion seek medical advice immediately. The same applies if your pain, swelling or numbness is uncontrollable. If you don’t have any of these conditions it may be safe to start treating your injury yourself.

The following acronym is a helpful way to remember what to do in the event of an acute injury:


R – Rest

Place yourself in a comfortable position & keep the injured area supported. Avoid using the area for 48-72 hours as continued activity will increase the damage to the injured area.


Apply ICE for 20 minutes every 2 hours for the first 48-72 hours. (When the injured area is a finger/toe or a child reduced this to 10 minutes). Ice helps to decrease bleeding and swelling by constricting blood vessels and as a result it reduces your pain.

Ice can be applied in the following ways:
– crushed or cubed ice can be placed in a plastic bag or damp towel/tea towel.
– frozen peas wrapped in a damp towel/tea towel.
– a gel ice pack or cold pack.

Do not apply ice directly to the skin, always use a damp towel to protect the skin.

C- Compress

Apply a firm, wide elastic bandage above, below and directly over the injured area. Maintain compression in between icing treatments. Compression decreases swelling and bleeding and provides support for the injured area. Some areas of the body may not be suitable for compression – like the spine. It is important to remember not to apply the bandage too tightly. Signs that your compression bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling or skin discolouration – i.e. toes turning blue. If this occurs loosen the bandage.

E – Elevate

If possible to do so comfortably raise the injured area above the level of your heart, you might try using a pillow. This helps to decrease swelling and pain.

R – Refer

As soon as possible seek medical advice. Seeing us here at Croydon Osteopathy is a good place to start. We can assist you to determine the extent of your injury and provide treatment and advice for the rehabilitation required.