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Don't Ice Your Injury!

Mar 11, 2021

Immediately after an acute injury, we get an influx of inflammation to the affected area.


Inflammation is a normal part of the healing process.


It was once thought that the appropriate course of action to counter the pain and inflammation that occurred with a new injury with the acronym R.I.C.E, which stands for rest, ice compression and elevation. However, our understanding of the healing process has evolved and research has shown that what was once commonly accepted as the gold standard of injury management may no longer be correct.


Think of your body as a sewage system. We have a system of pipes and drains (lymph vessels) that filter wastes products towards the sewers (lymph nodes). Our sewers (lymph nodes) are located at our groin, arm pits and neck.


Gravity will always have a downward pull on the body. In an upright position, gravity will push fluids down towards the feet unless an opposing force is stopping it. This is why compression and elevation are still recommended interventions for swelling. Compression and elevation help redirect fluid towards the nearest sewer (lymph node). Another way to reinforce a compressive force is to contract a muscle surrounding the affected joint. Contracting the muscle causes a compression of the vessels beneath it, helping to circulate isolated fluids.


If contraction (to a pain-free intensity) is potentially beneficial, then we know absolute rest is already not the answer. Relative rest, meaning eliminating the aggravating activity, is still beneficial in the short-term until you can gradual introduce an appropriate amount of stress the body proves it can tolerate.


"But what about ice? I thought ice stops the inflammatory process"


You would not be completely wrong if this is what you are thinking. But why do we think we want to "stop" the process? The human body is pretty smart. The body naturally releases the amount of inflammation it deems necessary to carry just the right amount of healing factors to the affected area. The amount of inflammation is typically consistent with the degree of damage to the tissue. Ice will slow blood flow and cause fluids to be more viscous in nature which can potentially lead to a harder time eliminating unwanted fluids. This could potentially slow the healing process down, which is something we can all agree we do not want.


So when is ice potentially useful? It is useful as a local numbing agent that can decrease pain. If you have very high levels of pain and feel the need to reach for ice, by all means, be my guest.


So there you have it. What was formerly R.I.C.E has just become C.E. Not quite the same ring to it, but who care what it sounds like if it gets the job done.


Not sure why you cant get rid of pesky swelling? Comment below or contact me directly at [email protected].