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Intermittent icing best for sprain

Holding an ice pack on a sprain is best when done for 10 minutes at a time.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2006 17:53 IST

Holding an ice pack on a sprained ankle for no more than 10 minutes at a time is more effective for easing pain than icing for a longer stretch of time, researchers report.

However, the either approach was effective for reducing swelling and improving joint function, the team found.

Ice is one of the standard treatments for reducing pain and swelling after an ankle injury, but there is little scientific evidence for the best approach to using this treatment -- or even whether it works -- Dr. C. M. Bleakley of the University of Ulster in Jordanstown, Northern Ireland, and colleagues report in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

To investigate, the researchers tested two different icing protocols in 89 people with mild to moderate ankle sprains, about half of whom were athletes.

The intermittent protocol involved icing the joint for 10 minutes, 10 minutes of rest, and another 10 minutes of icing every two hours. In the standard protocol, participants iced their ankle continuously for 20 minutes every two hours.

During the first week after injury, people in the intermittent icing group had significantly less ankle pain during activity. However, the differences between the two groups had disappeared after the first week. There was also no difference between the two groups in ankle function, swelling or pain at rest.

Using ice intermittently can enhance its effectiveness for pain relief soon after injury, Bleakley and his team conclude, "but the benefits are currently restricted to pain relief in the early stages of rehabilitation."

First Published: Aug 26, 2006 15:53 IST