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We have all been there; you step wrong and twist your ankle or your...

We have all been there; you step wrong and twist your ankle or your child slips and bonks their head. So, what do we do- put some ice one it? Have you ever wondered why ice is such a common treatment?

The main effect of ice is something called vasoconstriction . This long fancy word can be used simply to describe when your blood vessels (vaso-) become narrower (-constriction). What is the result of vasoconstriction? Think about it for a minute- vasoconstriction is just like having a kink in your hose, it reduces flow. So you apply ice, your blood vessels become narrower and less porous and the amount of blood supplied to the area is reduced. But why would you want to reduced blood flow?

Typically when you have an injury at least some vessel damage occurs. If there are broken blood vessels in an area, but the same amount of blood going to that location, the blood travels along the vessel until it arrives at the tear. This is where the problem arrises, if the blood vessel is broken there is no we're for the blood to go except stay in the same place. Over time, as more and more blood arrives to the location it begins to pool resulting in swelling. Tissue swelling if extreme can become quite dangerous. Some times swelling can be so bad and the resulting pressure so high that the flow of any fluid in and out of the area stops, resulting in cell death and infection.

So, after an injury you apply ice to reduce blood flow and minimize swelling.

Sounds fantastic!

However, once swelling has occurred applying ice cannot reduce it. If fluid has already built up in he he injured area no amount of vasoconstriction can remove the excess blood. In order to get the maximum effect of ice, apply it immediately after injury before the damage of selling has occurred.

If you have an existing injury where swelling has already come and gone research shows one remaining benefit of ice: reduction of pain. Two prominate pain receptors all throughout the body are called A delta and C fibers, both of which are effected by temperature. By applying ice and effectively reducing the temperature the speed and effeciency of these nerves abilities to send pain messages to the brain are drastically reduced.

The final proven effects of ice become apparent in a therapy setting. Say you are recovering from ankle surgery and need to start moving your foot up and down again. Obviously such movement would cause great pain. To reduce your discomfort a therapist may apply ice to decrease the temperature of the A delta and C fibers in the area. Once temperatures are reduced the clinician can then move your foot into the needed positions to quicken your recovery.

When you are injured the best way to maximize recovery is by applying R.I.C.E. No, not the white fluffy rice you eat with soy sauce but Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. These four little steps have been proven to be the best way to aid in recovery.

Ice is truly an amazing tool; it reduces swelling, pain and can aid in recovery. Next time your injury requires ice I hope you momentarily think about it's amazing molecular level effects.

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Posted in Dentistry Post Date 02/10/2016


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