The methods for treating a muscle strain have not changed much over the years. RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) therapy is still the most effective approach for minor strains and sprains. However, there are multiple ways to apply cold therapy, and some of them offer certain advantages over others.
If you have experienced a muscle strain, there are a few ways you can treat the injury with cold therapy:
The traditional ice pack remains an effective means of delivering cold therapy, especially immediately after an injury occurs. On the plus side, ice packs are readily accessible, either by putting ice in a bag or by using a ready-made gel pack that can be kept in the freezer.
However, there are a few drawbacks to this method. Gel packs, which can get colder than ice, can be so cold that they are potentially damaging to skin. Both ice packs and gel packs warm up with exposure to your body heat, making them less effective over time. They are also only able to deliver cold to a limited area, unless you use a larger ice pack that covers more surface area. You also have to hold an ice pack in place, which can be inconvenient and time-consuming.
Ice baths are another effective way to treat a muscle strain with cold therapy, especially if the injury is in one of the lower limbs or in the back. Of course, if you winced when you read the words “ice bath,” you are a member of the majority of people, who have little desire to immerse parts of their body in frigid water. Ice baths do have the benefit of allowing cold to penetrate from multiple angles at the same time, but the major drawback for this treatment method is clearly the high level of discomfort created by the ice bath. Ice baths are also not very convenient for treating an injury with cold therapy multiple times a day, as it takes time to fill the bath, and it requires getting wet.
Cold Therapy System
Cold therapy systems offer the benefits of traditional ice packs and ice baths but without the drawbacks. By using a wrap that covers the entire injured area, these systems deliver cold therapy without the need to submerge any part of your body in water. The wrap has an integrated chamber that circulates cold water through an ice reservoir, so it always stays at the same temperature and does not become warmer over time (and less effective) like an ice pack does.
Cold therapy systems allow you to treat your injury completely hands-free. Simply apply the wrap, enter the desired temperature and pressure settings, and let the device do all the work. The addition of active compression also makes cold therapy systems more effective than any other ice-application method.
Next time you need to treat a muscle strain with cold therapy, know that you have options. A traditional ice pack is an excellent way to immediately apply cold after an injury occurs, but as you go through the entire recovery process, consider renting a Game Ready cold therapy system. Your muscle strain will heal faster, and your treatment sessions will be comfortable and hands-free. Contact us today or find a provider near you.