Should We Ice Our Injuries?

Should We Ice Our Injuries?

The acronym RICE has been around since the 1970’s, and stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. It has for a long time been the staple by which athletes and the common person alike have treated injury, but in the last few years it has finally come under some much needed scrutiny.

The original premise that was used to suggest we ice an injury comes from the knowledge that when injured, a body part becomes inflamed, and thus ice is meant to slow down the inflammation process. However, what we didn’t know in the 1970’s is that inflammation is actually an important part of the healing process. In fact, the very doctor that created the acronym “RICE” is one of the people supporting the argument that ice (and rest, actually) may in fact delay the healing process. They are saying now that delaying inflammation slows down the natural cycle of healing, a cycle that is necessary from start to finish.

What happens during the inflammation process?

When you injure something, your immune system responds by sending inflammatory cells to the damaged tissue. Once there, these cells do their job of starting the inflammation process, and also signalling other cells to start repairing and healing the damaged tissue. And it is this job, the experts now say, that gets delayed if you ice your injury.

So what should you do with an injury?

Since (complete) rest and icing an injury (for more than 5 minutes) seem to now be contraindicated according to recent studies, you should probably rest a bit, and possibly still compress and elevate the injury (these won’t inhibit the inflammatory/healing process). As a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, it goes against my personal training to ice an injury, because in TCM cold always inhibits energy flow and is counter-intuitive. However, what I usually tell my patients is to use ice if it “feels good,” but if doing so to alternate with heat. And while heat can only speed up the inflammatory/healing process (now believed to be a good thing), I would be careful not to heat it too much in the early stages as heating an injury may mask signs of infection, which are important to look for in the early stages of an injury.

The bottom line is that it’s always good to get your injury assessed by someone professionally trained in treating an injury. Acupuncture is great because there’s no downside to using a few needles around an injury site to facilitate healing. Also, a chiropractor, physiotherapist or osteopath at Yellow Gazebo can discern the severity of your injury and get you moving again more quickly. Call 416-909-2334 today for more info, or use the online booking link below.

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