Ice Homework

February 07, 2020


            There is something in our chiropractic office called Ice Homework. Ice homework is what we utilize to help control inflammation before and after a chiropractic adjustment. There has been a debate raging for many years of ice vs heat. I think both sides of the argument have valid points to make, but I recommend ice for something called fluid manipulation. 

Fluid has a tendency to accumulate whenever there is an injured area, and fluid accumulation is painful (think of a swollen, sprained ankle). Using ice to manipulate fluid, pushes it out of the joint space, and ultimately enables the patient to feel better. 

I like for patients to put an icepack on the painful area for about 20 minutes. Because ice is a constrictor, the muscles will temporarily tighten. Then I have the patient take the icepack off for about 30 minutes, this will allow the muscles to relax. The patient then puts the icepack back on for 20 more minutes (tighten), then off again for 30 minutes (relax), then on for a final 20 minutes (tighten), and then off for the rest of the night (relax). This process is called “pumping edema”. 

Edema is the fluid that can accumulate around an injured area (again, think of that swollen, sprained ankle). Because fluid accumulation is painful, using ice to “pump edema” squeezes the fluid out of the joint space, like squeezing toothpaste out of a tube. I usually have patients do their ice homework as I described above, for three days in a row. I also tell them to drink plenty of water. Using their muscles to “pump edema” can sometimes make them sore, so increasing water intake can help to minimize soreness. 

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