Updated: May 2, 2019
For decades we have been advised to use ice to slow down the inflammation, to slow down the swelling and reduce the pain.
But is the use of ice really beneficial? Do we have evidence-based medicine, showing the benefit of the use of ice?
For the little story, in May 1962 a 12 year-old boy had an accident and ended up having his arm detached from his body, as he has been brought to hospital and Dr managed to do reattached his arm which was wow but in this case, ice has been helpful to keep the tissue alive and prevent tissue death but not proving being helpful for tissue damaged.
Up to recently, the protocol to follow during the acute period of an injury
(24 to 72 hours inflammation process timeframe on average)
RICE Protocol: Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate.
But we know better now, and the use of ice slow down the recovery, slow down the healing by slowing down the inflammation.
When there is a recent injury, which is inflamed the following factors may happened: pain, swelling, redness, heat. In our modern society ice is being used to control or reduce the swelling and the pain.
Ice reduce swelling:
Indeed, through the injury, tissue damaged had occurred and our body is putting everything in place to get on site of injury to get rid of the tissue damaged and rebuilt, repair and remodel by increasing the blood flow for fresh cells.
Our Lymphatic system is the one in charge to take care of waste metabolite left over but when the injured area is swollen, our lymphatic system is going through some difficulty on draining the excess of cells, this is where the imbalance is happening there is too much cell coming in but not as much coming out and to be to be efficient rather than elevate: isometric contraction or pain free range of motion should be applied to get pain free muscle contraction to help the lymphatic system to do its job.
Moreover, if you know any therapist in your area trained in Kinesiotaping the fan technique is a fantastic taping application to help. as Manual lymph drainage. Techniques that need to be done asap after the injury to be more effective.
Ice help reduce pain perception
Not really, ice is creating numbness and increase risk of further tissue damage. Instead of to deal with the pain it would be ideal to use some cryotherapy Gel such as biofreeze, cryoderm which act on receptors which reduced the pain perception.
Early pain free range of motion/ isometric contraction is the last stage to improve healing and functional scar tissue unlike “rest” which encourage our soft tissue to get adhered, dysfunctional early movement and load needs to be introduced.
It can be done Actively
frequently and numerous repetitions
without creating muscle fatigue
it can be done Passively
with powered muscle stimulator
without creating muscle fatigue
Early loading is helping for the swelling and a faster recovery with functional scar tissue.
To conclude: Inflammation is a good thing and we to heal.
Let’s stop inferring with our healing process, our body know better what to do for us to heal. "Inflammation can occur without healing, but healing cannot occur without inflammation".