For many, many years we’ve been consistently told that after we have an injury we are to immediately put ice on it. But does ice do what we all assume it is doing?
When we ice an area is it reducing the inflammation and improving recovery like we all think?
The Healing Process
Our healing process involves three phases: inflammatory, proliferation and remodelling.
The inflammatory process, when short lived and properly regulated, is natural and essential for healing. The body removes the damaged tissue and begins healing it.
Vasodilation increases blood flow to the injured area and carries healing cells to clean up the injured site. This is a good reaction from the body!! It’s how we fix ourselves!!
Inflammation increases our sensitivity to pain which is a protective measure, limits movement to prevent further injury to the tissue and allows the repairing process to occur.
To Stop or Not To Stop Acute Inflammation
The icing component has been shown in multiple studies to hinder the remodelling phase in our healing process. Potentially hindering proper maturation and collagen formation in the injured area.
Don’t get me wrong, the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) idea does hold some water. Clinical trials do support rest and the use of compression but have found no value in icing to reduce the inflammation and support healing.
Now, there is clinical evidence that ice has helped to temporarily reduce pain and numb the area of discomfort. But .... is this worth slowing down your body‘s natural healing process and possibly prolonging recovery time?
I understand our automatic desire to ice an injured area however, after a cockrane review, systematic reviews and analysis of numerous clinical trials conclude insufficient evidence that the addition of ice to an injury is beneficial .... we may want to question our theory.