Cold: Friend or Foe?

grandparents talking to granddaughterMost of us are ready to say goodbye to the ice, snow, and cold.  Icy conditions can contribute to a slip hazard.  When that happens to you, it’s easy to want to stay inside until the Spring thaw.  But inactivity can be equally harmful.  If you or someone you know would like to overcome a fear of falling, the Wisconsin Institute of Healthy Aging offers a variety of instruction to increase your strength and balance.  “Stepping On” is a 7-week course that meets once per week; class members learn from each other as well as from an array of guest experts related to balance, home environment, footwear, vision, and more.  This year I will be teaching “Stepping On” during the summer so that participants will be able to approach the cooler weather with confidence; if you are interested in taking the class locally you will find it at FortHealthCare.com/Classes and in the monthly Health365eNewsletter published by Fort Health Care.  I encourage you to browse the Wisconsin Institute of Healthy Aging webpage to explore the variety of classes available in the counties throughout the state:   http://wihealthyaging.org/.  From the homepage you can click on the “Find a Program” tab to learn more about criteria for each course, or “Find a Workshop” to see the scheduled classes.   You owe it to yourself to stay as active as possible during all four seasons.

When an injury does occur from a fall or other activity, you may consider cold helpful.  Ice is a common component of conservative care, RICE: rest, ice, compression, and elevation.   Whereas sore or tight muscles can benefit from heat, ice can help provide pain relief and minimize swelling from physical strain.  This is especially beneficial in the first 24-48 hours after injury.  You may benefit from using ice longer than that, especially if you have had a more severe injury or surgery; your healthcare provider will let you know after making sure that it is “just a strain.”  When an injury occurs to the fingers, wrists, or hands, a bag of frozen peas can work well to mold around the injured area.  Alternatively, at The Center for Hand Care, we recommend an ice pack recipe you can keep ready in your freezer.  In a secure Ziploc bag, combine 1 part rubbing alcohol with 2 parts water.  Place this mixture inside of another Ziploc bag to prevent leaks.  This will become a gel consistency within a day.  Use a protective cloth between your skin and the ice pack, and keep it on up to 10 minutes (or as soon as area feels numb).   If you are using the ice pack on a larger body area, it may take up to 20 minutes before the area feels numb.  Use ice with caution if you have poor circulation, a previous cold injury, or arthritis.  See, cold can be useful!

Laura Suttinger, OT, CHT

About Laura Suttinger, OT, CHT

Laura is an occupational therapist and certified hand therapist at the Whitewater Therapy & Sport Center. She cares for patients with upper extremity injuries and conditions as well as post-surgical and orthopedic needs. She is also a Certified Hand Therapist and has developed an interest in ergonomics and home safety.
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