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Take the ice bucket challenge! - Real Women Speak

Ice Pack on Knee Joint
iStock photo 000020174460
Johanna Kiefer


By Elaine Friesen-Strang


First, a clarification: this is in no disrespect of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I am in awe of all those brazen folks who, for the sake of a cause (and occasional self promotion), pour a pail of frigid ice water over their heads. A gifted gentleman I admired, and who made a profound musical contribution to the Portland area, died of ALS. It is a cruel disease demanding more research and support for patients and their families.

I'm suggesting a different challenge: an Ice Bag Challenge. If I tweeted, I would promote my invitation with a hash tag photo of me with two slushy bags of ice resting on my aching, swollen knees. I do so with the adamant, persistent instruction from my physical therapist, orthopedist, primary physician, even massage therapist: "ice your joints". I am not the ideal patient. I do not do this as often as I should, but when I do take the time and brace the cold, I find the relief undeniable. Icing is good. Just do it.

Why? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says 52.5 million of us in the United States have arthritis. In a "Healthy Aging" section, The Oregonian reported arthritis affects 50% of adults over the age of 65. We may have it because of age, genetics, joint injuries, infections, or lifestyles, but it takes its toll on our daily functions, physical health, and enjoyment of life. Some of us will go on to seek surgery, some of us will alter our lifestyles. Many of the prescribed treatments are costly and are not without their risks. Ice however, has not only proven helpful, it has no co-pay, and is available in your home freezer. Contraindications? Well, potentially the bag could leak: professionals suggest double bagging.

People who study this sort of thing say ice can reduce the swelling caused by constriction of blood vessels. My experience says it can also numb pain. I admit I was a reluctant convert. I like my steamy baths of lavender and Epsom Salts; they are soothing and smell great, but unfortunately don't reduce swelling. To place a Ziplock bag full of ice cubes on my already painful knees seems counterintuitive. Incredulously, I'm willing to testify--it works.

My physical therapist would win the Bobby Flay Arthritis Throwdown. Her recipe is 3 cups water, 1 cup rubbing alcohol into a large Ziplock bag. The alcohol keeps the water from turning into a big solid ice cube. I may not do it as often as she recommends, but I figure even if I do it just once nightly, it keeps an additional ibuprofen from reaching my stomach.

The careers of surgeons and profits of pharmaceutical companies are not endangered by this treatment. It's not alternative, or cutting edge, and obviously, it's not a cure by any means. But maybe tonight, while you're watching a preseason football game (really, already?) or reruns of Modern Family, take this challenge. Then take a selfie and send it to your walking partner, your Pilates instructor, your Zumba class. You won't be fundraising towards a worthy and noble cause, but you may be advancing your health, and encouraging others to do the same. I dare you: ice yourself!

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Welcome to Real Women Speak , where you’ll hear the voices of Oregon women who are struggling, soaring, muddling through and motivated to move forward.

Inspired by Decide.Create.Share, this blog chronicles stories from lighthearted happenings to questions of fortitude. From life-altering changes to simple anecdotes, our shared narratives serve to inspire, guide, and connect us.

Every woman has a voice. AARP Oregon seeks to amplify them.

About our guest blogger: My name is Elaine Friesen-Strang. I have played multiple roles in my personal and professional lives. While I consider how I intend to shape my sixth decade, I am involved with several organizations, including serving on the Executive Council for AARP Oregon. And, I faithfully do my physical therapy exercises every day.

Welcome to Real Women Speak, where you’ll hear the voices of Oregon women who are struggling, soaring, muddling through and motivated to move forward.

Inspired by Decide.Create.Share, this blog chronicles stories from lighthearted happenings to questions of fortitude. From life-altering changes to simple anecdotes, our shared narratives serve to inspire, guide, and connect us.

Every woman has a voice. AARP Oregon seeks to amplify them.

About our guest blogger: My name is Elaine Friesen-Strang. I have played multiple roles in my personal and professional lives. While I consider how I intend to shape my sixth decade, I am involved with several organizations, including serving on the Executive Council for AARP Oregon. And, I faithfully do my physical therapy exercises every day.

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