Many experts are now advising that practitioners hold off on icing injuries.
When used too long, ice can actually impede healing. Many instead are suggesting that the body's natural inclination to create inflammation at an injury site is in fact helpful and necessary to promote healing. Rest also is no longer recommended. It's been found that inflammatory chemistry, along with exercise, can bring more blood into the injured area and ensure healthier healing. Exercise can include everything from massage and analgesic (methol) rubs to kinesiologic tape and low-level laser therapy.
However, a brief application of ice or cryotherapy to dull pain after an acute injury continues to be recommended.
Current research has shown that cryotherapy does not improve outcomes, and for acute injuries it can impair healing.
The physiology of tissue injury and repair has advanced in the past few decades, and it dawned on the clinical community to take heed that the body becomes inflamed for a reason. We wouldn’t have survived as a species without inflammation. However, there’s good and bad inflammation, the bad being the systemic inflammation that causes arteriosclerosis (another topic altogether), and the good being the localized inflammation which is essential to healing after injury.
A few minutes of massaging with a bag of ice cubes will reduce pain over an injured area. However, prolonged application of ice alters blood flow and disturbs the body’s chemical healing mechanisms. After injury, chemicals are released that signal different types of white blood cells to arrive at the scene. These cells direct traffic between other cells via chemical communication, they chew up debris and orchestrate the healing physiology. New capillaries are quickly built to enhance circulation and the stage is set for collagen formation to patch things up. Inflammatory chemistry is necessary to promote good healing.
This article excerpt, by Scott Gillman, DC, originally appeared here: www.metrowestdailynews.com/article/20150512/entertainmentlife/150518966