Ice pack therapy is a treatment of cold temperatures to an injured area of the body.
An ice pack is placed over an injured area and is intended to absorb heat of a closed traumatic or edematous injury by using conduction to transfer thermal energy.
We often hear that after many emergency room visits for auto accidents, hospitals recommend that patients use heat after an acute whiplash injury. In our experience, this is not the best recommendation in 100% of the cases. Heat has its place, but the acute injury creates swelling, which often is increased when heat is applied to the area.
Avoid electric heating pads. We have seen too many skin burns as a result of electric heating pad use. On the other hand, do not apply ice to bare skin, as you can injure the tissues with prolonged use of ice.
The physiological effects of cold application include immediate vasoconstriction of the blood vessels, decreased local metabolism and enzymatic activity, decreases oxygen demand of the muscle, decreased muscle spindle fiber activity, and slower nerve conduction velocity. Therefore it is often used to decrease spasticity, muscle guarding, and swelling of the area. It is also used to alleviate the pain of minor injuries.