One of the most common post-operative injuries is swelling around the treated site. The swelling might be severe and lasts for some days after surgeries. This may not only cause discomfort, but also aesthetically disturbing. Hence, many patients seek for remedies which can lessen post-surgery swelling. One of the well-known home remedies is ice or heat pack which is used for compressing the site.
Ice and post-surgery swelling
Cold compresses or ice packs can be helpful for helping you with post-surgery recovery, especially when dealing with swelling. Although swelling occurring after surgery is going to disappear within days or weeks, the application of cold or heat compresses is beneficial in speeding up the swelling healing process. However, this compresses may not be applicable to all kinds of post-surgery swelling and there should be some cautions taken before deciding to apply the compresses.
How does ice pack work in reducing swelling after surgery?
The application of ice onto the post-surgery bruises will lower the temperature of injured tissues, which is going to constrict the blood vessels. When these blood vessels are constricted, blood flow to the injured site is inhibited, which also lessen the swelling. Hence, applying cold compress or ice pack onto the post-surgical swelling is beneficial in speeding up the healing process.
Is ice good for all kinds of swelling after surgery?
Swelling resulted from surgeries performed to the abdominal area, feet, or knees can be lessened using cold therapy—applying cold compresses or ice pack to the injury site, especially with proper application. However, ice application is not recommended for some kinds of post-surgery swelling, especially swelling which causes the injured area to feel numb. Hence, if you undergo swelling from facial surgeries—facelift, for instance, an ice pack application is not advised. Numb swollen area from the surgery may cause you to feel nothing even after the compress is applied. As a result, skin burn from the compress is likely to happen, which is harmful for the entire facial skin health.
When is the best time to use ice with swelling?
- Ice will give maximum benefits for non-numb swelling if applied for the first 24 to 48 hours. This is the period when the resulted swelling is still severe and large. After the first 48 hours, the compresses can be alternated between warm and ice compresses. These compresses can be applied 4 to 5 times a day, but be alert not to get the skin burnt.
- Some patients continue to apply an ice pack or cold compress even after the swelling goes down, because they experience relieves when the post-surgical wound site is compressed with cold compress. If the swelling turns into bruises, heat pack or warm compress should be applied, rather than the cold one. Heat pack is going to promote sufficient blood supply to the bruises, bringing more oxygen to reduce the bruising appearance.
Use cold therapy safely
Despite its helpful property for post-surgical swelling and sports or lifting injuries, cold therapy, which is applied by an ice or gel pack can possibly cause burns to the skin. Hence, intervals during application are required. Some methods on using cold therapy safely include:
- Not applying cold compresses or cold pack on the same bruises, strains, sprains, or swelling continuously for 20 minutes. This might cause burns to the skin, especially the fragile post-surgery skin.
- During the application, give a 10-minute break between applications to prevent burning.
- Wrap the ice or the cold pack with thin cloth or towel before applying it onto the bruises or swelling to prevent burning.
- Do not apply cold compresses excessively. Four to five times a day should be enough.
- Do not apply ice pack directly into swollen post-surgical skin. If using alternated cold and warm packs, be sure to watch the temperature, not to make both too cold and too warm. Extreme temperature will cause burn to the surface of the skin and cause discomfort to the injured tissues.