While playing and working out, injuries are common as we start to push our body beyond it can take. Its always a good idea to enhance the push slowly, but over enthusiasm can take over and we end up injuring ourselves at places like ankle, knee, thigh, elbow or similar.
Its a good idea to see a doctor and understand the seriousness of injury if it pains a lot. What will be important as a quick measure is to ice the injury. Typically, it is recommended, you should ice the injury for 15- 20 mins every hour for the first 48 hours. Cold gel packs are a new way of applying cold therapy on injuries. Their biggest advantage is that they stay in the healing zone for a lot longer than ice does. Ice is usually at 4 degrees or lesser, while the healing range is between 4-14 deg C. Applying any substance colder than 4 degrees C can cause “cold burn”and numbness.
What is an injury?
Imagine you fall down while running or a dumbbell falls on your leg while working out. At the point of impact, your body tissues become inflamed, which is the body’s way to respond.Our body has immune cells in all the body tissues to take care of any intruders. These cells are activated when they sense a change in the molecular pattern as we have an injury.
As an immediate response, these immune cells release mediators, among them inflammatory mediators which increase the permeability of blood vessels. This is done so that they can release plasma proteins into the tissues around the injured area leading to a swelling. A few of these mediators are responsible for increased reception to pain while some cause vasodilation, the expansion of blood vessels to enhance blood flow to the site of injury.
Cumulatively, the effects of the release of these mediators lead to inflammation, increased heat and pain. This process occurs when the injury does not involve an open wound or bleeding, in which case a different response is set off. That’s a reason ice is not applied to injuries with bleeding involved, but only on areas with inflammation due to the process described above.
What applying cold gel pack does
“Cryotherapy” – using cold to treat and recover injuries with inflammation is a fast and effective treatment method when trying to relieve pain from an injury. Icing/cold gel packs help in any superficial trauma of the tissues like bruises, strains, sprains, etc. but doesn’t solve the problem. It’s a way of pain relief. As said earlier, make sure to see a doctor in case of an injury.
While the immune response by the body to the injury is essential to prevent infection and to eliminate damaged cells, the process is slow and in turn slows down healing. For example, the increased pressure within the inflamed tissues keeps them from healing quickly and recovering normal functioning.
This is where ice/gel packs comes in, by applying ice/gel packs to the injured site, the blood vessels which were dilated begin to constrict, limiting the flow of blood to the area. This relieves the pressure within the tissue and slows down the pain mediators to relieve the pain experienced.
This helps to return mobility to the affected body area and provide room for new cells and tissues to be formed which will replace the damaged ones.
Cold gel treatment is mostly used when managing acute injuries. Ice/cold gel packs help minimise swelling around the injury, reduce muscle spasm, reduce bleeding into the tissue and reduce the pain.
Precautions when using ice/cold gel for injuries
1. You should not apply the ice directly onto your skin as this can damage the skin cells further. Hence products like SandPuppy help as there is a fabric between the gel pack and the skin. 2. Never apply ice/gel packs for too long, about 20-minute intervals should be enough. Prolonged freezing can cause too much vasoconstriction which will reduce the body’s regeneration of new cells. 3. Lastly, seek medical attention. Injuries can occur at work, while playing sport, at home or even while dancing or having a BBQ with family and friends.