Ice, Ice, Baby: How Ice Works on Injuries

Something happens in dance class: you tweak something, you landed a little funny, you felt something... odd.

Our first reaction - after looking at the injured or "funny feeling" area - is to grab an ice pack. What is happening when we ice an injury? Is ice helping or hurting us? What process does ice go through? Let's discuss ICE!


When your body has experienced an injury (pulling to hard, twisting to fast, landing incorrectly), your body's initial reaction to the shock is to start the healing process.

Inflammatory Response --> Fibroblastic Repair --> Maturation Remodeling Phase

During the initial inflammatory phase, you will experience redness, swelling, tenderness, an increase in temperature at and around the area, and potential loss of function (and/or range of motion). Let's focus on the increase of temperature.

When an injury occurs, your body immediately releases chemicals to the injured area which causes the area's temperature to rise and swelling to occur. These chemicals are coming in to open up and clear out the area, while also signifying to the dancer that something is wrong. When this occurs, you are experiencing vasodilation (the opening of your blood vessels, so that blood can rush to the injury).

Enter Ice!

Photo Source

Ice is used for strains, sprains, contusions and also any time the body is irritated or inflamed from overuse in dance. The cooler temperature of ice placed on the increased temperature of an injured area is helping your body move from vasodilation to vasoconstriction. You are decreasing the diameter of the blood vessels. You are slowing the rushing of blood to the area (preventing the pooling of blood at the injured area - or an edema, or bruise), and assisting the body in proceeding with the healing process. Ice also serves as a way to decrease pain.

The Ice Process: CBAN

When you place ice on an injured area you are likely to experience 4 sensations. Note: You have to leave the ice on for 15 to 20 minutes in order for ice to reach the deep tissues and complete its process. You do not want to leave the ice on for more than 20 minutes, because you risk damaging tissue at that point. Here are the 4 sensations you will experience in the ice process:

Uncomfortable Sensation (Cold) -->Burning --> Aching --> Complete numbness

Icing an injury is called cyrotherapy. When you experience CBAN (Cold, Burning, Aching, Numbness), you know the ice is working. The uncomfortable sensation (cold) should last 0-3 minutes. The burning and aching should occur within 2-7 minutes, and the numbness is around 5-12 minutes.

Photo Source: Read Dance Teacher Magazine's article on when to use Ice vs. Heat

Tips for Icing:

1. Crushed ice is best (it spreads out).
2. Wet ice is best (gets cooler faster).
3. Use a towel. Do not place ice directly on the skin.
4. Time your usage (15-20 mins).
5. Know how often (every 1-1.5 hours for 72 hours after the injury).
6. Frozen ice packs get colder than using ice.
7. The gel packs that can be re-frozen are hypoallergenic.
8. The ice packs you pop and use once, uses chemicals and can irritate some dancers' skin.



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Design & Development by Shane Jeffers