Dr. Dean

Using An Ice Pack: Don't Make The Injury Worse

Posting Date: 08/30/1999

Here?s a health warning ? don?t put ice packs or hot water bottles directly on your skin.

This should be common sense, but many people apparently think it?s okay and end up burning or freezing their skin. Ice or heat packs applied directly to the skin can result in serious skin damage.

For example, a 59-year-old woman sustained a partial thickness burn on her calf after a gym instructor told her to rest the calf for 20 minutes on an icepack, according to a report published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

One reason this shouldn?t be done is that freezing and compressing the skin at the same time can cut off the blood supply, causing more damage, including gangrene.

If you?re going to put an ice pack or heating pad on a bruise or sore muscle, make sure you use a middle padding, like a towel, to protect your skin.

Source: British Journal of Sports Medicine, 1999:33:278-9