How to Apply Ice or Heat to Injured Ankle

How to Apply Ice or Heat to Injured Ankle

Injuring your ankle can be a devastating blow in many ways. You feel stiff, sore, and swollen from being unable to move around as quickly as you'd like. You may also lose out on essential opportunities if you can't get back to work, or even worse - your loved ones because you're stuck at home! That doesn't have to be the case, though. Ice and heat are both simple treatments that are very effective in speeding up the healing process of your injury. Whether you're looking for a quick fix when it comes to swelling after damage occurs or wish to remedy some knee pain such as arthritis, learn more here on when to use ice or heat for an injured ankle!

When and How to Use Cold Therapy

Cold is a quick and easy first step to managing pain and swelling. If you are unsure of the severity of your injury, you may want to see a doctor first. Still, it can be an immediate action to prevent unnecessary swelling in many cases. Ice is also an ideal option for managing pain and swelling that could get slightly worse when you begin (and progress) an exercise program.

How to Properly Apply cold Therapy

There are three steps to follow when applying cold therapy on an injured body part. (1) The first is the ache or soreness you feel right after an injury. Next, your area might feel "burning", - indicating that it's starting to swell. Finally, you may begin to experience a general numbness in your injury, and swelling should begin to subside shortly after this stage. After experiencing these three stages of cold application treatment, the icing will hopefully have achieved its ultimate goal: therapeutic pain and swelling relief!

  • To achieve total comfort while using ice packs, we suggest that you apply a thin layer between your skin and the group to inhibit blood circulation. A towel is an example of a fabric that can hinder blood flow; therefore, a t-shirt or pillowcase would best maintain therapeutic numbness.
  • It usually takes about 10-15 minutes to achieve “numb” status (less with ice massage).
  • Once the area is numb, you can stop icing.
  • If you wish to apply ice to an injury, it's best not to do so for too long at a time. Using ice for several minutes straight never ends well because your body will dilate the vessels near the area of application in a bid to warm things up once again. This means that when you start using ice again, your body will reactively open the surrounding vessels later on. Ice is best-used bit by bit, like 15-20 minutes over a chunk of your day rather than all at once; keep in mind; "more" is not better here!

Benefits of Cold Therapy

Cold turns your skin white and stiffens it up, which helps restrict the blood vessels of an area causing fluid to build up. It also numbs the nerves in an area that deals with pain, allowing you to cope with swelling. When too much fluid builds up, this squeezes the nearby muscles against one another, which irritates them, causes them to tighten up and cramp, leading back to a slippery slope where our ankle has even more trouble staying stable. Thus, applying ice helps prevent and recover from ankle issues quickly and safely!

Best Ways to Apply Cold Therapy

Cold Pack or Ankle Ice Wrap

A cold therapy pack will provide compression for additional pain and swelling management. Remove it from the freezer and place it where it is needed. For best results, use this product three times a day.

Topical Gel

This new topical cream provides a cooling sensation for temporary pain management.

Ice Massage

If you're looking for great ways to speed up muscle recovery, then this one is for you! Many people use ice packs, but there's a better way. Water is often frozen in a paper cup and then rubbed directly on the injured area for 5-10 minutes. This method not only alleviates pain better than an ice pack, but it also helps to promote healing quicker and more thoroughly because the chill penetrates the skin more effectively than simply applying an ice pack.

Ice Therapy Machine

This machine lets ice-cold water flow through thin tubes wrapped around the ankle and foot to reduce swelling.

Ice Bath

Placing the foot and ankle in a bucket or tub of cold water can immediately affect large areas all at once.

When and How to Use Heat Therapy

While ice therapy is generally more effective when an injury first occurs and the secondary effects are more powerful and noticeable, it is possible to find the proper heat treatment for your needs. Heat treatment is, in general, more agreeable from a patient's perspective when it is a possibility. Comparatively, the heat could be applied throughout the recovery pattern. The period when the heat may apply is not after those full days of an injury. It can be used before and after exercise to help with pain and stiffness control and stress management during recoveries or simply living with chronic aches/pains/conditions (like fibromyalgia).

Benefits of Heat Therapy

Most people (in fact, the majority) enjoy taking in some heat every once in a while. It helps cover all sorts of niggles and aches and pains that can sometimes be quite distracting! If you're lucky enough to live in a place with a hot climate or weather, then you'll benefit from the ability to bathe yourself in the warm rays for longer hours than if you live somewhere colder. Heat also helps boost blood flow - which is usually a good thing since it means accelerating recovery time after sustained injuries. There's another bonus, too: just as natural heat relaxes sore muscles, it also takes your mind off what's troubling you because it feels so good! Many patients can sleep more accessible when they feel relaxed due to heat being applied during this process.

Best Ways to Apply Heat Therapy

Gel Packs

These are generally warmed up in the microwave or water and placed where needed.

Heating Pads

Heat the Herbal Heating Pad in the microwave, wrap it around any area of your body and place it where needed.


Draw yourself a hot bath and relax both your mind and body, or Put warm water in a bucket just for your foot and ankle.


Dry heat actively increases circulation throughout the body. It's a perfect option for those who prefer longer sauna sessions and who want to avoid damaging their skin with too much exposure to steam.

Why Swelling Happens

Swelling is often demonized as a new injury occurs. It signals pain in the injured area, but the node is an essential part of healing, allowing for a proper recovery due to the suitable cells entering the affected area. While anyone who has experienced swelling knows it can be very uncomfortable, actual pain isn't always necessary to recover from an injury. Such pains may be managed better with ice packs if you're looking for specific ways to take care of your body, such as applying cold packs to reduce pain caused by swelling of muscles and joints.

Alternating Cold and Hot Therapy

For years, alternating between heat and cold therapy to the ankle has proven a successful treatment for healing and rehabilitation. Using cold therapy provides constriction of blood vessels that helps reduce swelling. Cooling down an area after microtrauma or soft tissue damage promotes healthy blood flow and can also aid in healing breakdowns from over-stretching such as tendonitis and scar formation. The best time to apply ice is when you have a new injury or acute pain since it is designed to be more effective at reducing swelling on inflamed tissue. The best time to apply heat would be at the end of your typical physical exertions or weariness, perhaps even before bed!

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