For as long as sport has been on TV we have iced our acute injuries. We’ve done so with the best intentions of reducing pain, swelling and inflammation – all in the name of speeding up the healing process.
This is unfortunately still a controversial issue but if you haven’t already it’s time to re-consider.
It doesn’t work.
Well it kind of does, but not the way we want (and need) it to in terms of speeding up return to full function.
For some reason over the last 40 years we have continued to use ice in acute injuries despite it’s well documented effects on tissue and those effects being polar opposite to what we need to happen to facilitate the healing process.
Once damaged, the tissue becomes swollen and inflammed to prepare for healing. Pain is generated by the brain so that we clearly know what we can and can’t do (if anything at all) so that we don’t create further damage.
Yet we use ice to disrupt or limit these processes. Why?
In a way, we are assuming the body has got this well refined process wrong.
The idea of using ice to limit swelling and the inflamatory process in order to speed up healing is a little misguided for no other reason than icing can and will limit blood flow – the very thing that naturally increases so that healthy inflammation and repair can occur.
The irony of using ice is that once you stop icing the tissue naturally reheats and continues doing what it was trying to do in the first place. Not only are we failing to speed up the healing process but we are potentially just placing the whole thing on pause and SLOWING IT DOWN unneccesarily.
In terms of swelling, we know that its removal is a passive process. In order to de-congest an injured area our Lymphatic System needs movement/muscle activation to pump the waste away towards the Lymph Nodes. We don’t need ice to try and limit this process (it will keep wanting to happen regardless), instead we need to focus on speeding up it’s removal via responsible, pain-free movement, elastic compression and massage.
Over the last few years of posting about ice it’s fair to say this issue is STILL a controversial one (mainly within this industry). If you speak to any Doctor, Physio, Sports Trainer etc the likelihood of people blindly disagreeing is still far too high.
With the above info in mind, I urge everyone interested enough in optimising their/their patients recovery to seek this info out for themselves. Think logically and critically about it. But THINK about it.
Clinically icing an acute injury should no longer be the go to treatment. As popular and widely recognised as it still is, it’s not only counterintuitive theoretically, but the lack of results speak for themselves.
Ice will assist in pain relief – which is still a noble option depending on the person and their individual circumstances but be aware of what it cannot and will not do in terms of healing and ultimately a faster return to activity and full function.
Instead consider an active recovery, compression floss, massage and listening to your body. We find far greater immediate results and faster returns to activity instead of ice.
Keep and open mind and feel free to leave the ice alone.
Please feel free to COMMENT below and let’s discuss the issue. We need to change. Alternatively, please LIKE, SHARE + TAG others to spread the word.
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