August 23, 2006

Intermittent icing best for sprain pain

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Holding an ice pack on a
sprained ankle for no more than 10 minutes at a time is more
effective for easing pain than icing for a longer stretch of
time, researchers report.

However, the either approach was effective for reducing
swelling and improving joint function, the team found.

Ice is one of the standard treatments for reducing pain and
swelling after an ankle injury, but there is little scientific
evidence for the best approach to using this treatment -- or
even whether it works -- Dr. C. M. Bleakley of the University
of Ulster in Jordanstown, Northern Ireland, and colleagues
report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

To investigate, the researchers tested two different icing
protocols in 89 people with mild to moderate ankle sprains,
about half of whom were athletes.

The intermittent protocol involved icing the joint for 10
minutes, 10 minutes of rest, and another 10 minutes of icing
every two hours. In the standard protocol, participants iced
their ankle continuously for 20 minutes every two hours.

During the first week after injury, people in the
intermittent icing group had significantly less ankle pain
during activity. However, the differences between the two
groups had disappeared after the first week. There was also no
difference between the two groups in ankle function, swelling
or pain at rest.

Using ice intermittently can enhance its effectiveness for
pain relief soon after injury, Bleakley and his team conclude,
"but the benefits are currently restricted to pain relief in
the early stages of rehabilitation."

SOURCE: British Journal of Sports Medicine, August 2006.