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Inflammation is the body’s natural response to injury or general overuse.  Immediately following an injury, swelling can occur to clean up and clear away the affected area for the healing process to occur, subsequently resulting in recovery.  However, prolonged inflammation can lead to chronic pain and dysfunction; therefore, controlling inflammation is a key first defense against pain.

How to Decrease Inflammation

Avoid the use of heat, which can exacerbate inflammation.

Icing is a great way to reduce initial inflammation and to interrupt the pain signals the body is sending out.  Apply ice over the affected area for 15-20 minutes, 5-6 times a day, not to exceed once an hour.  Icing before sleep can help calm the nervous system and overactive muscles, resulting in better sleep.

Icing instructions

  • Do NOT apply ice or a cold source directly to the skin. Instead, keep a thin layer of material between the skin and ice.
  • There are 4 sensations you’ll experience when icing: First – cold, then a burning feeling, followed by some aching in the area, and finally numbness.  Once numbness is achieved, continue icing for another 5-10 minutes.
  • When ice is not available, a bag of frozen vegetables or another safe cold source will suffice

Post-Icing Activities

Once icing has done its job and symptoms have reduced, it’s a great opportunity to stretch and move around. General mobility like walking promotes increased blood flow to bring oxygen and nutrient rich blood to the site of pain and inflammation.

Strength training and more demanding activities should be avoided initially after a flare up.  Although you may feel ready for these types of activities, it’s best to slowly recover for 3-4 days before resuming normal exercise.