You may have read somewhere on the internet that you shouldn’t apply ice to an acute injury like an ankle sprain for fear of slowing down the natural healing processes and prolonging the duration of the injury.

While the body is wise, it is also very careful.

Your immune system is like an army designed to protect you from undesired invaders like viruses and bacteria that can make your sick. It is also responsible for the inflammatory response associated with a cut to your skin or acute injuries like an ankle sprain.

The initial response to potential harm is to send a very strong immune response to the area of invasion or injury. Cut your skin and the area gets red, swollen, warm, and irritated. A very strong immune response will assure that nothing dangerous enters your body to make you sick. Sprain your ankle and you’ll get a similar response that is usually stronger than it needs to be because in the case of an ankle sprain you get what is called sterile inflammation.

If this type of overshoot of inflammatory response is allowed to run rampant, it can actually make the injury worse. This is called a secondary ischemic injury which is caused by a reduced availability of oxygen to the injured area. Applying ice for the first couple of days after the injury reduces the chance of this secondary ischemic injury from occurring.

So yes, it’s still a good idea to ice that ankle sprain!

Do you have an injury and wonder whether your should see your physical therapist?

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