For over 40 years the accepted method of treating an acute injury, such as a sprain or strain, has been R.I.C.E , which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, during the first 72 hours following injury. This method is now being disputed. Recent scientific research is calling into question the use of ice for healing and recovery. In fact, clinical studies are showing that ice can delay the healing of an injury. A 2013 article by CY Tseng et al, in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, states that “topical cooling (icing) a commonly used clinical intervention, appears to not improve but rather delay recovery from eccentric exercise induced muscle damage”.
Gary Reinl, author of ‘Iced! The Illusionary Treatment Option’, has spent years looking at the literature regarding ice as treatment for acute injury and concludes that there are no scientific studies that support the theory that ice speeds up the healing process.
In a 2013 article titled ‘Ice Delays Recovery From Injuries’, author Gabe Mirkin, the sports medicine doctor who coined the term R.I.C.E., says that due to current research, he no longer supports using ice for treatment of acute injuries.
Inflammation is part of the body’s natural healing response and is actually a positive reaction. When tissues are damaged, more blood arrives at the injury site and with it inflammatory cells such as leukocytes and macrophages. These cells release proteins which clean up and heal the injured site. Ice temporarily delays blood flow to the injured site and therefore delays healing.
Ice does have its benefits in terms of pain reduction and local numbness but as far as healing goes it’s best to let inflammation run its course.
Sue Underhill is a registered physiotherapist and owner of Maximum Physiotherapy in Collingwood. The therapists at Maximum use the most current treatment practices to help clients recover as fast as possible so they can get on with doing the things they love to do. If an injury is preventing you from living life to the fullest give us a call 705-444-3600.