For many years, we have been told to ice an injury. This has been reinforced by watching professional sport where athletes are wrapped in ice packs before they have even left the field. Originally, ice was used to minimise the inflammatory response in an attempt to accelerate the healing process. However, is ice beneficial or detrimental to our injury?
RICE became POLICE which has now become PEACE and LOVE, but why?
Research has identified that optimal loading aids recovery through cell regeneration induced by light mechanical loading in the early stages of injury recovery. Subsequently, rest is actually detrimental to our recovery.
But what about the ice?
Ice acts as a great pain numbing agent by cooling the skins temperature but the temperature of the muscles remains constant implying that the ice isn’t actually affecting anything in the underlying muscles.
Ice can affect the healing properties by stopping inflammation. When we are injured, our body sends signals out to our inflammatory cells which release hormones. These cells initiate the healing process by killing damaged tissue. For the reason, by applying ice to our injury we are delaying the release of the hormone and therefore, delaying the healing process.
So the questions is: should we still be icing our injuries?
The answer is not a straight forward one. Probably not BUT although some inflammation is good, prolonged swelling is bad news as it can apply unwanted pressure on the tissues, can restrict movement, increase pain and decrease muscle function.
In areas where function can be limited such as ankle sprains or quadriceps inhibition following an ACL injury ice is a viable treatment modality as the goal is not to prevent all swelling but to limit the extent of it.
A muscular injury such as a strain or tear often swell less and therefore do not need any ice application.
In conclusion, ice is less important as we first thought, the only time to use it is with severe injuries where the swelling will likely be the limiting factor to recovery.
If you have suffered an injury and want professional help to get back to what you love doing as soon as possible then book an initial assessment here.