1)When is the proper time to use ice? I get advice from my doctor and friends to use a heating pad. What is correct?
The time to use ice is when you are feeling pain. It may be a sudden pain from an injury or a chronic pain from arthritis. Most pain is caused by inflammation which is occurring deep in the tissues of the body. It is not usually seen, such as in a swollen ankle, but it is there. The goal is to help reduce inflammation and this occurs by cooling the area, not heating it. Heat is deceptive because it feels soothing while it is on, but may actually be worsening the condition by prolonging the inflammatory process. Some doctors argue that the ice has only a surface effect but the clinical evidence proves otherwise. Try it and see the results. After all, it’s what works that counts, not opinions. Let me know your experience.
2)How do I apply ice?
The best method is to use a re-usable soft ice pack that remains soft after freezing. They are inexpensive, long lasting and will not get everything wet. If one is not available then use a zip lock plastic bag and fill it with crushed ice. Then wrap the ice pack in a thin dish or face towel. Sometimes moistening the towel will allow deeper penetration.
3)How long do I keep it on per application?
Keep the ice pack on for 15 minutes for extremities and the neck, 20 min. for mid back, and 25 min. for the lower back. No more than that. Then remove from the area of pain for 20-30 minutes. You may then re-apply for another cycle.
4)How often may I apply ice per day?
Following the above rule there is no limit to how many cycles but practically 5-6 cycles should be effective.
5)How many days should I use the ice?
Use ice whenever there is pain. Once the pain has gone, use ice once a day for 3 days to ensure the inflammation continues to subside.