Understanding Shoulder, Elbow & Wrist Pain

THE ART OF ICING

When You’re Numb, You’re Done

Ice is for injuries. Calming down damaged superficial tissues that are inflamed, red, hot and swollen. The inflammatory process is a healthy, normal, natural process…that also happens to be incredibly painful and more biologically stubborn than it needs to be. Icing is mostly just a mild, drug-less way of dulling the pain of inflammation. Examples: a freshly pulled muscle or a new case of IT band syndrome (which is more likely to respond than the other kind of runner’s knee, patellofemoral pain, because ITBS is superficial and PFPS is often a problem with deeper tissues).

Here are some tips and methods in icing inflamed tissues: Slide the ice over the inflamed area in a slow but steady pattern. It’s important to keep moving. Continue ice massaging for 1–3 minutes, or until it is numb, whichever comes first — no more. “When you’re numb, you’re done,” is the rule of thumb for safety. Areas with thick tissue, like your shoulder, will take longer to get numb. Thin areas, like the side of the elbow, will usually go numb quickly. What does numb feel like? Just close your eyes and lightly touch the skin. If you can’t feel it at all, or if you can feel only pressure, that’s numb enough. Stop icing and let the tissue warm up. An excellent method of therapeutic icing is to use bare or “raw” ice — that is, ice applied directly to the skin, with no layer of plastic or fabric between you and your ice. Raw ice delivers more of an icy punch! This is due to the spreading of melt water into every crevice, which conducts heat more efficiently away from the skin both directly into the ice, and via evaporation.

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