After getting home from a surprisingly successful run this morning, I decided I would be pro-active and ice my hip. I am supposed to be doing this regularly to treat some hip pain that has arisen secondary to my bike accident. But, it is tough for me to ice it at work, since our fridge/freezer can't keep things cold enough, and I keep forgetting to do it at home. But today I would do it! I was wearing some tri shorts and thought, "Hey how convenient! I can just stick this ice pack right inside the shorts and it will stay nice & close!" I thought about putting something in between the pack and my skin, but only spotted thick towels. The other gel pack I use generally doesn't get very cold so a thick towel would be too much. I didn't really look too hard. "Hey! Ouch! It's stinging!" I thought, but remembered back many years to prior PT sessions with ice, where it stung until it was numb. I put some oatmeal in the microwave and was getting stuff ready for work and didn't notice that the stinging had stopped.
Getting up to get my oatmeal, I looked down and noticed frost on the outside of my shorts. Uh-oh. I pulled out the gel pack and to my horror, my skin was white, completely numb and completely frozen! I mean, it was stiff. It grosses me out just to think about it. "Oh no! This is bad!!" I grabbed a wash cloth and put some warm water on it and applied it to the skin. The cloth totally cooled and I repeated the process until the skin started to soften. It was still whitish but started to pinken up, pretty painfully I might add.
Frostbite in my mind is forever associated with people who climb Mt. Everest and lose toes, fingers, limbs... (In 9th grade a mountain climber came to talk with us and told us how she had lost some toes to frostbite. I think it was supposed to be an inspirational talk but I pretty much just remember the losing toes part of it.) Will I have to have my whole hip amputated?! Granted I could use a little reduction here and there but not this way. Seriously, I wasn't that worried but I wasn't sure how to treat it. Once it started warming up, the skin became really hot to the touch, and swollen. Fortunately there were no blisters and after some time, the swelling diminished, leaving red welts about the size of the gel pack. After a call to the advice nurse, who admitted to not getting many frostbite cases in San Francisco, I stopped by the injury clinic at my HMO and the awesome nurse practitioner there eased my worries. I should treat it as a bad sunburn, she said. Aloe vera, pain killers if necessary, and expect it to itch and then peel in a few days. Swimming is okay (phew) and I should even apply cool compresses. Oh and, please use a towel around the gel pack in the future. I felt like I was 16 again when I was in a bad car accident the one time in years that I hadn't been wearing a seat belt!
Sometimes I feel like I insist on learning things the hard way.