How Does Icing an Injury Help?

How Does Icing an Injury Help?

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Probably one of the first things you do when
you bang your knee or twist your ankle is put an ice pack on the injury. You probably know that that can help reduce
swelling and dull the pain, especially within the first couple days after you get hurt. But why interfere with the way your body’s
trying to naturally heal itself? When you pull a muscle, stretch a tendon,
or burst a blood vessel, that triggers your body’s inflammatory response: it sends a
bunch of blood cells and fluids to repair the damage. And that is an important part of the healing
process. The problem is, your inflammatory response
tends to overreact. If you’ve ever gotten hay fever in the spring
and felt like your eyes and nose were going to melt off your face, you know what I’m
talkin’ about. Too much swelling can cause a bit of a traffic
jam with all the fluids rushing in, which can cut off nearby cells from getting the
oxygen they need to keep functioning. And that is where icing an injury, also known
as cryotherapy, can help. When you put ice on a part of your body that’s
inflamed, the tissues and blood vessels contract, limiting how much blood and other fluids can
get to the area and bringing down the swelling. Cold can also slow down the cells’ metabolism,
so they use the oxygen they do have more slowly and don’t die. If it’s at a joint, like if you sprain your
ankle, you’ll be able to use it a little more, and maybe do some rehab exercises. But if you leave an ice pack on for too long,
it can actually do more harm than good. If the injury site gets too cold, your body
will flood in even more blood cells and fluids, trying to warm it back up, even if you’re
still using the ice pack. This renewed blood flow is called hyperemia,
and it’s why doctors say it’s generally good to limit cryotherapy to about 10 or 20
minutes at a time. After that, let your injury warm up for 10
minutes or so before putting the ice pack back on. Ice can also reduce the pain you feel. When they get cold, the ions that carry messages
around between neurons have a harder time getting around, reducing the pain signals
going to your brain. Also reducing lots of other kinds of signals,
which is what numbness is. So when you get hurt, it is important to let
your body do its thing and heal. Ice just helps make sure your body doesn’t
overreact, and keeps you a little more comfortable in the process. Thanks to all of our Patreon patrons who keep
these answers coming, and for more on the science of injuries, check out this other
SciShow video where Michael explains why papercuts hurt so dang much.

100 thoughts on “How Does Icing an Injury Help?”

  1. As a medical professional, I'm very uncomfortable with this idea that your body always or frequently overreacts with it's inflammatory response. There's no evidence of that and the excessive use of ice for every injury is a great way to lengthen healing and recovery. Also, allergies are not the same thing and should not be equated with a response to tissue damage! The only time swelling will be so dramatic that it will inhibit cell oxygenation is when your skin and tissues are becoming entrapped inside your skin. Your skin and tissues stretch so unless your swelling is rapid or you need the ice for temporary pain management, it's best just to let your body heal itself. If your pulse isn't slowed in the body part, your cells are getting plenty of oxygen.

  2. SCISHOW!!! Do a video on why jumping into cold water "takes your breathe away" why it suddenly feels like you have no air in your lungs? Anyone ever jump into cold water and all the air in your lungs gets taken away??

  3. Icing your feet/ankles/any other part of your legs after a run helps the muscles repair themselves quicker after a run. No longer than 20 mins at a time in one spot. I usually alternate between feet and ankles. Your ankles get more force from running than even your feet.

  4. What about popping your back and neck when you wake up or before working out? Is it bad or does it do damage?

  5. I wonder what would happen if all heat disappeared for one milasecond then reappeared in the exact same place would everything just die immediately ?

  6. The rule of thumb I have always heard, and personally use, is put ice on an injury until the injury looks like it has reached its maximum level of tissue damage: worst swelling, most discoloration, in the case of a joint, most stiffness. In a few days when these things start to improve, heat can increase blood flow and thereby encourage healing.

  7. scishow plz answer: how water travels inside our body. I mean if I drink water does it travels the same like food? if so why I urinate?

  8. I would hypothesize that reason for this "over-reaction" is due in no small part to the rapid development of human civilization. When a caveman got sick or injured, their body's natural immune response would likely be the only thing keeping them alive. They didn't have things like hospitals or automobiles or climate controlled shelters that we have, so it was worth the added burden of enduring the body's immune response if it meant keeping that caveman alive long enough to procreate. Today, however, because we have all of these amenities and conveniences, the burden of our body's immune response can be a largely unnecessary process that our bodies go through in spite of all that.

  9. Fell once and bashed my mouth into the ground. Man was I grateful for ice that week… No Kylie Jenner lips gone wrong for me, thank you!

  10. I was just trying to explain to someone why ice helps but when they asked me why stopping the immune response is good, I couldn't figure it out. Thanks for answering this!

  11. I lost my eyesight attempting to watch that video <Hank's shirt>. But I could listen to the rest of it and found it very informative regarding giving icing a 10 minute break before continuing. Very good info.

  12. Through all the injuries I've had in my 42 years of life, I've only had any inappropriate swelling from a staph infection caused by a wasp stinger breaking off in my wrist. (Yes, wasp, not bee. It got wedged and snapped.)

  13. "…why a paper cut hurts so dang much"

    Even just mentioning it. Even just that on its own. That's enough for me to get half a mental breakdown. No. Just no.

  14. Be aware that cooling inhibits blood clotting, so if you have a bleed or bruising, a cold pack can actually make that worse.

  15. Can you do more episodes on biodiversity? I loved that key stone species episode! Maybe ocean keystone species? Or plants?

  16. Hurt spots also feel hot and we are naturally inclined to put something cold there. If this really helps, then it appears the body knows that it overshoots every time and telling us to get ice is just an easier fix than evolving an automatic countermeasure.

  17. Can you make a video about whole body cryothereapy? I know is popular with some athletes. Does it really help reduce swelling after a work out or any kind of swelling? Great videos by the way. Thanks.

  18. Ive been injured today 2 times my right and left arm it hurts me alot im scared becuz i think im going to have bone cancer its that right? Im scared!! I injured my self today twice morning and afternoon what should i do??

  19. So you're saying putting pressure on my crushed finger with a couple tightly wrapped band aides before returning to work might not have been the best option?!

  20. So, here we have it. Evidence is now getting through that the reason you're get swelling is because it is what you body does – it does it to allow the good things to get in to the area and to flush out the rubbish. So, now, it's becoming accepted the argument goes that it's the body over reacting. Now, think about that for a second. Either way what we are supposed to believe, is that the body is harming you. The question is: Is it harming you by causing swelling or is it harming you by over reacting? This is just plain daft.

  21. Interesting – I was brought to use a hot and cold compress 2mins of hot 1min of cold – my understanding is this sudden change in temperature encourages the blood to circulate and therefore speed up healing – yet so many people especially athletes use ice packs which one would assume would close down the blood supply. Whats really odd is hot and cold actually works but I dont know many people that do it. but thank you for sharing this info tho I'm still a bit confused I guess-

  22. I guess the first thing I do when I get an injury is consult this or other YouTube channels! Currently icing a lip hickey which I didn't know I could even mf get

  23. Research has shown that icing injuries actually prolongs healing. Even the creator of the RICE protocol Dr. Mirkin has said that icing provides no benefit. In fact, it appears that nothing in RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is beneficial. http://www.drmirkin.com/fitness/why-ice-delays-recovery.html

  24. Cool video thank you!!

    So is it really worth icing to speed up the process of the recovery or is it just meant to dull the pain while applying it?

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