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[Before I start this article I must say this: if your injury does not improve quickly, or if you have any worries at all about it, see a doctor.]

Ice is a kendoka's friend!

Whenever we get any "soft tissue" injuries, in other words strains, sprains or bruises, the best treatment is to apply ice. A good example is if your wrist is bruised because your kote are too soft or your training partners are too hard. When you get home you should apply ice to the bruised area. It is amazing the difference it makes. Without it, the soreness can last for days, and even worse, it comes back very quickly the next time you get hit there.

If you ice the injury, the next day all the pain will have gone away. And by next training, if you get hit there, it won't be any worse than before*.

So do I just get an ice block from the freezer and put it on my wrist?
No. You can use ice from the freezer, but put several blocks in a plastic bag to stop it getting messy as the ice melts. Then use a damp tenugui or wash-cloth around the bag to stop the ice from burning your skin. Yes, ice can burn you! If the cloth is damp it helps to transfer the coldness to your skin, but protects your skin from burning.

When should I ice my injury?
You should ice your injury as soon as possible after training. But even if you forget, using ice the next day will still help.

How long should I use it for?

You should hold the icebag against your injury for as long as you can stand it. Usually 5-10 minutes, depending on your age, and the size of the body part (your finger will get cold much quicker than your thigh, for instance). If your whole wrist (or whatever part of the body is involved) starts to ache from the cold, just stop, put the ice bag back in the freezer, and let your wrist/finger/ankle/etc warm up again for about the same time as you had the ice on it. Then apply again, e.g. ice for 10 mins, rest for 10 mins, ice for 10 mins, rest for 10 mins, ice for 10 rest for 10. Let's call this "one cycle".

Do one cycle as soon as you get home. Then leave it for a few hours, then do another cycle. Leave it for a few more hours, then if you still feel a bit sore, do one more cycle. The next day you should feel a great improvement. You should continue to rest from kendo, but you probably won't need to keeping icing your injury.

Be careful not to leave the ice on too long. It's safer to stop, rest, and do it again, than to keep it on for a long time.

Why does ice work so well?
The cold effect of applying ice slows down blood flow to the affected area and also reduces the response of nerves in the area. This does two important things:
  1. It instantly reduces the pain (a kind of anaesthetic).
  2. It reduces swelling, which in turn helps the injury to heal more quickly.
What else should I do to look after my injury?
The basic way to look after all soft-tissue injuries can be remembered with the word RICE. The word RICE is a mnemonic, in other words a device (a word or a rhyme) for remembering something. It stands for (in order of importance):

Rest - stop the activity that caused the injury

Ice - apply ice to the injury

Compression - use a strong, elastic bandage wrapped tightly around the ice-pack to help reduce swelling.

Elevation - Keep the affected area raised to reduce blood-flow.

But if you can't do all of these, the most important one, aside from rest, is ice.

Is there anything I should avoid doing?
Yes, several things. These can be remembered with the mnemonic, "No HARMS".

Heat - no heat packs, hot water bottles, hot baths or hot showers.

Alcohol - none of this of course!

Rubs - no medicated rubs like Tiger Balm, Deep Heat, Liniment Oils etc.

Massage - no massaging the affected area

With the exception of alcohol, most of these things are usually good things. But not for the first 72 hours (3 days) after a soft-tissue injury. There is one thing they all do, and that is they all increase blood flow. This will slow down healing and actually increase the pain, inflammation and swelling of your injury.

So for three days after the injury, no HARMS, just RICE! Oh, and did I mention to see your doctor if you're not sure? Yes? Good!

Are those gel-filled cold packs worth getting?
I was going to say they work quite well, although not as well as ice.

That was, until I found this product recall!

It seems many of the common brands of gel-filled hot/cold packs contain a toxic substance, ethylene glycol, otherwise known as anti-freeze for car radiators. This is a highly poisonous substance.

So I would say NO! They are not worth getting. And further, if you have one, contact your local council or your local chemist about how you can dispose of it safely.

Surgipack, one of the most commonly available brands of gel-filled hot/cold packs.
These have been found by the Australian Gov't to contain ethylene glycol, a toxic substance.

*It's a very good idea to mention such injuries to me, or whoever is taking training where you are. If your opponent is hitting too hard (even if that person is me) you should tell them. You can also find another pair of kote with a firmer datotsubui (striking area), or wear some padding underneath.


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