How long should I ice?
- Most sources recommend 10-15 minutes. At work, we ice patients for ten minutes and this is plenty.
- Ice should be applied for absolutely no longer than 20 minutes. Icing longer can actually cause tissue damage or an increase in the inflammation in the area.
- You can ice multiple times a day (provided that you are not dancing). The recommendation is around four times a day.
When should I ice?
- NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVER ice before you dance! You risk causing more damage to your injured body part.
- The recommendation is that there needs to be at least two hours in between icing and physical activity. If you have iced earlier in the day, be sure to warm up the body part really well. Tiger Balm does not count and is not a substitute for a proper warm up.
- Some recommend waiting until the day is over to ice (this is my preference).
How can I ice?
- Ice pack: You can buy a gel ice pack at any pharmacy or you can ask your physical therapist if they have ice packs for sale in the clinic (these are usually the heavy duty, professional grade kind. I have two, they are marvelous). Ice in a baggie will also do the trick. Be sure to put something between your skin and the ice. At work, we use pillow cases. Other acceptable barriers might include: a towel or a t-shirt. It is not hard core to put the ice directly on your skin. You can get frost bite or an ice burn (both are painful and unsightly).
- Ice massage: It is usually recommended that this is done no longer than ten minutes, or until the area feels numb. Simply fill a dixie cup with water, freeze it, then peel away the paper at one end. Massage the area with the ice, but be sure to keep the ice moving.
- Ice bucket: An effective way to ice an ankle is with a bucket filled with ice water. The recommended amount of time for an ice bucket is 10 minutes. If your foot is numb before then, take it out.
But I'm dancing all day, and I really want to ice on my lunch break! What should I do?
- Unless your break is at least three hours long, don't ice.
- A nice alternative is laying on your back with your legs up the wall. This uses gravity to get stagnated blood out of your legs (which is what ice does, except the cold constricts the blood vessels, and pushes blood out of the tissue).
- This is something that is seen in many restorative yoga poses, one of the benefits is listed as "refreshing for the legs and feet."