Joint Pain Icing

ICE is the #1 best and least expensive medicine there is when it comes to joint pain caused by overuse injuries.  Jumpers knee, shinsplints, and inflamed shoulders can often be cured with just ice and some diligence.  Before we got any further, let me state the obvious – I am not a doctor and if you are injured you should seek out one immediately rather than self treating.  What I am talking about here is overuse injuries that slowly creep up on you slowly, not sudden, acute injuries.   With these overuse injuries you just ignore the pain and keep jumping, swinging, and running, till your brain suddenly gets smart and says STOP.  This just happened to me.  Over the last few months I have played a lot of volleyball and both shoulders are increasingly very sore.  I have a recurring problem with the AC joint in my shoulder where an impingement causes inflammation which in turn causes some pretty good pain.  A lot of people take anti-inflammatitories to calm painful joint inflammation but really ice is a much better first line of defense.  Personally I don’t like taking pain medication unless my doctor strongly recommends it, I would much rather just do ice.   If you are going to take Advil, ibuprofen, or equivalent you then PLEASE ice as well.

Why Ice?

The pain in overuse injuries is caused by inflammation.  The inflammation makes things swell up which makes them rub harder against the joint when you move which causes more swelling and more inflammation.  The ice reduces the swelling and gives the joint a chance to heal.  Its a bit confusing because sometimes you hear people recommending heat for certain kinds of pains.  When it comes to an overuse injury though, its *always* ice.  Ice reduces inflammation whereas heat increases circulation.  In the case of overuse injuries its all about reducing the swelling and reducing the inflammation.  I have never, ever heard a doctor recommend heat for an overuse injury .. at least not yet :)

How to ice

icing for joint pain

I wish this was a staged photo but its not, thats why I’m not smiling.   First, you can buy those blue gel freezer packs and they work fine.  If you buy them get really big ones to really chill your joints, no mini ones. I like the ones that weight over a kilogram (2 lbs).  Get at least three of them too because you will be icing quite often and they dont freeze fast enough that you can get by with just one.  Honestly, what I find works just as well and is a lot cheaper is my 2lb bags of mixed frozen vegetables.  Yes, these are the same ones that I use in virtually  every quick meal video that I make.  They stay in place well and are just the right temperature.  The gel packs require a layer of cloth to keep the skin from freezing but because the vegetables are only partially in contact with the bag I find that direct skin contact provides optimal cooling.

How to attach

With shoulders, you can just mold the bags of frozen vegetables and let them sit there.  For joints like knees and elbows you need to use a 4″ wide elastic ace bandage to hold the vegetables firmly in place.  You can also buy gel ice packs specifically designed for knee, ankle, or shoulder.


How often

As far as I am concerned, the more the better.  If you really want to maximize how fast the inflammation goes away I would say every two hours while you are awake which means up to 8 times a day.

How long

More is not better, I like keeping the ice on for ten to twenty minutes.  If your skin gets frozen then you have done something *very* wrong, either you needed more cloth under the ice or you iced for too long.  It can take a month or two to make an overuse injury go away, have patience and stick with it.  Ice is a lot easier than surgery!

STOP anything that hurts

This is the tough part.  If you want the overuse injury to go away you gotta give the joint rest.  Pain means it is swelling and causing more damage.  You need to stop anything that causes discomfort, period.  Consider this a great time to focus on other aspects of your physical fitness program!


Remember!  I am not a doctor, I am just a professional patient passing on what has worked well for me!



25 thoughts on “Joint Pain Icing”

  1. Hey Scooby, just wanted to say thank you for being such an inspiration. I have been into running for quite a while now, but when I realized I was losing too much weight I decided to start lifting some weights as well to balance that. That’s when I stumbled on you youtube channel. You diet and workout tips have helped getting lean mass without losing my performance on track.

    I’m also an engineer myself and I always had this “do it yourself” attitude that you have, so I have immediately related to you when I started watching your videos. As a techie I always loved numbers, charts etc. but never thought of applying them to keep track of my body stats. Your videos gave me that perspective, and I’ve been tracking my weight and BF daily since then. Seeing the results in the chart is very motivating and it keeps me wanting for more.

    I was planning to take part on the success stories at some point and tell you how much you have inspired me, but under the light of recent events I thought it would be better to do it now.

    Best of luck for all your future endeavors, and I hope you’re still around with your new website when I turn 40 :)

  2. I’m gonna miss watching your videos and reading your articles. The things you taught me changed my life and I’ll never forget where I learned it. I’m so sorry for your troubles, you deserve nothing but graditude. I’ll respect your wishes and teach everybody that’s willing to listen how to improve there life through fitness and nutrition. It’s the least I can do for all of the hard work you’ve put into this website. We’re going to miss you dearly old friend. Feel free to facebook me if you want. Thank you so much for everything Scooby and good luck with your new life. Alvederzane.

  3. Thanks for the great advice ,Bro.
    I don’t like to see a hurt’n Scoob.
    Take care of yourself and maybe take some liquid Cod Liver Oil (a really good brand like Carlson) …Really

  4. Hello Scooby,
    Ive been getting 6 well balanced meals / day for a while now and training hard. I’ve become a bit constipated in the last week though. I’m wondering is it due to all the fiber ( broccoli , mixed frozen veg ) or due to an excess of protein. I get between 150 to 200 g of protein in the day and i weigh 176 pounds. Could you offer any advice?

    1. Colin, you may be lacking water, lots and lots of water. If you workout you need heaps of water and if you eat lots of fibre you need water to bulk up the fibre, otherwise it will get stuck. The authorities tell us to eat lots of fibre but they forget to tell us how important water is to help bulk it up and push it along. I learned this the hard way trust me.

      1. Thanks for the reply Rosanna. I’ll keep track of my water intake. I’ve heard regular sips are better than necking a bottle to allow as much water to be absorbed. I’m really glad there’s a simple answer too. I really don’t like taking supplements.
        Go raibh maith agat.

  5. I Scooby, im from Portugal and just want say thank you… from the past 3
    years i learn and improve a lot with you, i always workout naturaly
    without any suplements, im 36 years old and i lift heavy since 17 years
    old, almost 20 years!!! best regards

  6. I Scooby, im from Portugal and just want say thank you… from the past 3 years i learn and improve a lot with you, i always workout naturaly without any suplements, im 36 years old and i lift heavy since 17 years old, almost 20 years!!! best regards

    1. I see my country is well represented. Looking good, bro. You should have entered Scooby’s success stories contest but maybe he’ll have one again next year. Viva Portugal!

  7. I started my weight loss quite ambitiously by running and now my ankles hurt. how do you give your ankles rest when I have to walk on them all day everyday?

  8. That’s great. I love the repurposed bags of frozen veggies, probably to be seen in a future Scooby healthy meal recipe. I’ve recently started cooking with them, and you’re right–it’s SO much easier than dealing with buying fresh ones!

  9. Scooby, You refer to not leaving ice packs on too long. Well, I did, for over an hour on my forearm. It has been 7 days and the skin still feels tingly as if its thawing out. What could I have messed up? Nerves, Muscle Tissue? There is not more pain just skin feeling really weird as if it is asleep. Thanks for all your hard work, BTW.

  10. I feel you. I’ve been dealing with one of those injuries myself (left shoulder). A professional massage with some ultra sound treatment helped me alot but I stopped working out the upper body because of that.

    Thank you for reminding me about the ice.

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