My last post was on ice baths, and I am still on the icing kick. However this time I will address the icing of specific areas. This type of icing is obviously a little less “painful” than ice baths, but still a great injury prevention tool. We all have those times when we come back from a workout and something is bothering us. It could be your feet, your shins, or that pesky hamstring…..you name it. Icing the area right away will increase your chances that the same area will not be as painful tomorrow.
Icing right after you workout is best. But for those of you in a hurry, you might not get to it until you are at work and sitting at your desk. For others it might not be until the evening while watching TV. It is all good. Better to ice later than not at all. Time-wise, the goal is 10-15 minutes of ice, but if you only have time for 5 minutes – 5 minutes it is.
There are a lot of ice packs out there, and it is worth it to invest in one. They come in different sizes and shapes, depending on the area of the body that it is used on. To check out the variety of ice packs available, click here.
I have one of the elasto-gel wrist wraps (for after those long hard hours at the massage table) and really like it. It conforms to the area to be iced (my wrist) and has a velcro band to keep it in place (useful if you are trying to do something else, like work, while icing). They are also nice because you do not need a towel between the pack and your skin. Here is more info about the gel ice/heat packs. Note that these (and many other ice packs one can purchase) can also be used as heat packs.
In general, unless you have specific needs, an all purpose ice pack in the 10” x 15″ range is good. However, one certainly can use a bag of frozen peas or just a plain old bag of ice instead.
In most cases (no need if using one of the elasto-gel packs) it is best to put a towel (not too thick a towel – or you won’t feel the cold) between your skin and the ice, to help you avoid frostbite or frost-nip. My experience with this, is that an area will turn white and hard. So check in with your skin as you ice, especially if you are going for 15 minutes. You can overdo it.
Ice massage is also a great tool. Freeze a paper cup filled with water. When frozen, peel off the top inch or so of paper to reveal the ice. Hold the cup in your hand and use the exposed ice to massage the sore area. Ice massage is great on shins.
Then there is that bucket of ice water for your feet/lower legs. This is great when you have a general soreness in your feet/lower legs – and are not up for a full ice bath.
If you are having plantar fasciitis issues (pain in the arch of the foot and going into the heel) a plastic water bottle filled with water and then frozen, can be great. Use the frozen water bottle to roll under your arch. A little ice massage to to reduce the inflammation and sooth the pain.
Icing can be a great way to reduce post workout/race soreness and pain, but unfortunately it is not a cure-all. If the pain persists and causes you to stop working out, or negatively effects your ability to workout (for example, if you run, it effects your stride so that you run differently), you should have it checked out by your favorite health care professional.
Note: Got some feedback about ice baths. A few personal tips I will pass on:
1) “I fill up the tub and dump in the ice right before I get in, but then I soak a medium-sized towel in warm water in the sink, and tuck it between my legs (kind of like a diaper) to protect certain parts of the anatomy that are most affected by and least in need of an ice bath. It makes the entry SO much easier!!”
2)”I’ve actually been sitting in my ice bath for up to 20-minutes, doing Sudoku puzzles with a heavy fleece on my top!”
I (Julia) read and wear a long sleeve shirt that I don’t care about getting wet. I need something to cover my tender tummy area.