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How To Ice An Injury


Updated May 30, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

ice an injury

Ice is a useful treatment for inflammation.

Photo © www.iStockPhoto.com

Icing an injured body part is an important part of treatment. Icing injuries can be effective for sprains, strains, overuse injuries and bruises. Learn how to properly ice your injury.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 15 minutes

Here's How:

  1. Get the ice on quickly.
    Icing is most effective in the immediate period following an injury. The effect of icing diminishes significantly after about 48 hours.


  2. Perform an "ice massage."
    Apply ice directly to the injury. Move the ice frequently, not allowing it to sit in one spot.


  3. Don't forget to elevate.
    Keep the injured body part elevated above the heart while icing -- this will further help reduce swelling.


  4. Watch the clock.
    Ice for 15-20 minutes, but never longer. You can cause further damage to the tissues, including frostbite, by icing for too long.


  5. Allow time between treatments.
    Allow area to warm for at least 45 minutes or an hour before beginning the icing routine again.


  6. Repeat as desired.
    Ice as frequently as you wish, so long as the area is warm to touch and has normal sensation before repeating.



  1. Ice Option 1 -- Traditional:
    Use a Ziploc bag with ice cubes or crushed ice. Add a little water to the ice bag so it will conform to your body.


  2. Ice Option 2 -- Best:
    Keep paper cups filled with water in your freezer. Peel the top of the cup away and massage the ice-cup over the injury in a circular pattern allowing the ice to melt away.


  3. Ice Option 3 -- Creative:
    Use a bag of frozen peas or corn from the frozen goods section. This option provides a reusable treatment method that is also edible.


  4. Prevent Frostbite:
    Do not allow ice to sit against the skin without a layer of protection. Either continually move the ice (see "ice massage") or use a thin towel between the ice and skin.


  5. Sources:

    Hubbard TJ, Denegar CR. "Does Cryotherapy Improve Outcomes With Soft Tissue Injury?" J Athl Train. 2004 Sep;39(3):278-279.

Related Video
How to Ice a Running Injury
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