The effectiveness of an ice pack, a menthol based cooling gel, a menthol based cooling gel with extracts and a placebo gel in the treatment of acute ankle sprain
Harper, Shaun Michael
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Cryotherapy is commonly used to decrease pain, swelling and disability in acute injury. The most common form traditionally used is ice packs, with menthol based cooling gels being increasingly used by physicians in place of ice. More recently companies are experimenting with adding herbs containing anti-inflammatory properties to these menthol based gels to enhance their effectiveness. There is a paucity of literature comparing different forms of cryotherapy to one another, and more experiments are necessary to determine if cooling gels containing menthol and cooling gels with menthol and anti-inflammatory herbs are comparable to that of conventional ice pack cryotherapy. Objectives To determine the relative effectiveness of an ice pack, a menthol based gel, a menthol based gel with herbal extracts (combination gel) and placebo gel in the treatment of an acute grade 1 or 2 inversion ankle sprains, in terms of subjective and objective measurements. Any adverse reactions were also noted. Method A placebo controlled randomised, single blinded clinical trial (n=48) was conducted. Participants were randomly allocated into one of the four groups. Each group consisted of 12 people between the ages of 18 and 45. Each participant had a case history, physical and ankle examination prior to being accepted to ensure that they met the inclusion and exclusion criteria. On the initial consultation the respective treatments were administered and participants were instructed on how to apply the gel or ice pack, which they were required to utilise at home three times per day for 3 days. Those receiving the gels were blinded as to which gel they were receiving, all gels looked and smelt the same. On the 4th day the participants returned for data collection and were instructed to stop using the treatment and return 7 days later for further data collection. Statistical analysis consisted of repeated measures of ANOVA and Bonferroni post hoc tests, with a p-value of <0.05 considered statistically significant. Results Intra-group and inter-group analysis showed that all four groups had statistically significant improvements in terms of subjective and objective measurements. The results of the study demonstrated that the effects produced by the two cooling gels containing menthol, are comparable with those of conventional/traditional ice pack cryotherapy in the treatment of acute grade 1 or 2 inversion ankle sprains. No adverse reactions were reported. Conclusion This study found that all four treatment interventions were effective and safe in treating acute grade 1 and 2 inversion ankle sprains, however the ice pack and both cooling gel groups appear to statistically significantly improve treatment outcomes at a similarly higher rate when compared to the placebo gel group.