We have all heard the acronym RICE. It stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. It’s basically a formula to decrease pain and swelling after a fracture, strain, sprain or dislocation. Regardless of your specific type of injury, there are some good rules of thumb regarding ice and cold therapy. In this video, I share my thoughts on how to use ice after an injury.

Ways to apply ice or cold therapy

After an injury or surgery, there are a number of ways to use cold to decrease pain and swelling. Obviously, you can use a plastic bag and ice cubes. That method can be difficult if the cubes are large, as they don’t conform well to the shape of your knee, ankle or other body part. Many patients often use a bag of frozen peas or corn. The pieces are small enough to mold to the injured area, and you can throw it back in the freezer when you’re done using it. A cold gel pack from most drug stores can work well also.

Woman applying a cold pack to her calf injury

How long to apply ice after an injury

Generally, the rule of thumb is to only apply ice or cold to the injured area or surgical area for 20 minutes at a time. Especially when the ice pack or cold pack is directly on the skin, it can cause damage, and even frostbite, if left on for a long period of time. Some people do 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. Others do 20 minutes an hour. I like my patients to use ice or cold for 20 minutes at a time, 4 to 6 times a day. And it’s helpful to elevate the injured area and ice it after you have been moving around for a while and it stars to swell.

In this video, I share more thoughts on different icing strategies after an injury or surgery.

Remember, always talk to your doctor for specific questions about recovering from your particular injury.

Also read:
Normatec compression for muscle recovery
Whole body cryotherapy for faster recovery