Think Twice Before You Ice

Ice has been used as far back as 1978 when Babe Mirkin established the protocol R.I.C.E.. R.I.C.E. stands for Rest, Ice, Compress and Elevate and is generally thought of as the standard of care for minor acute injuries and micro traumas seen in endurance events.

The original thought process behind ice was to constrict blood vessels and limit swelling. It is this swelling that irritates free nerve endings causing pain.

Ice is also very effective at decreasing pain by reducing its signal through a neurological priority of temperature.

Combined with the fact that ice is free, and it is not hard to see how ice became the “go to” remedy for pain.

It wasn’t until recently that researchers started looking into the role ice plays in the healing process, and to everyone’s surprise, ice was shown to be counterproductive.

According to a 2012 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, there are

“no clinical studies of its (ICE) effectiveness.

This research was supported by a 2013 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research which concluded

“topical cooling (icing)…seems not to improve but, rather, delay recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage”.

In fact, a summary of 22 scientific articles found no evidence ice and compression decrease healing time over compression alone.

When tissues get damaged it is a basic breakdown of cells to an area, like a broken glass on the kitchen floor.

Obviously you would never leave broken glass on your floor. Think of all the damage it could do. That is the same thing that happens with this cell fragment soup that is now in the joint or muscle. The body needs to clean up these proteins by burning them up.

Enter inflammation. Your immune system sends cells called phagocytes and other white blood cells to burn up these dead and dying cells and tissues and to initiate the process of repair.

When you ice, you are literally closing down this process by causing a constriction of your blood vessels. This constriction prevents blood flow to the area. Without this blood flow, there is no way for the body defenses to get to the area and begin the cleanup process.

So, if ice is not the answer, what is?

The holistic principal is to always work with the body in as natural a way as possible.

When it comes to inflammation, pineapple and papaya both have something called proteolytic enzymes. That is a fancy way to say they will help eat away the damaged tissue.

Cucumber and Boswellia are strong anti-inflammatory that works as effectively as NSAIDs.

Finally, Manganese is an enzyme activator in the body as well as a ligament strengthener.

Physically, you want to encourage circulation. Blood flow brings building blocks for tissue repair while taking away damaged cellular debris. Stretching and mild movement will both encourage circulation but the best weapon to help drain the inflammation is with something called Kinesio-tape.

Kinesio-tape is like a second muscle.

Its elasticity will mimic the contraction of a muscles thereby assisting in its function and reducing its overall stress-load. Depending on the taping technique, it can be used to reduce swelling and takes pressure off of sensitive nerve endings responsible for pain.

One final note to keep in mind with acute injury, most often the body will need a rebalancing of joint and soft tissue structures that have been damaged. This can often be seen in athletes who keep spraining the same ankle. It is highly likely that these people have lost their kinesthetic.

This is a fancy way to describe the body’s awareness of where it is in space. This includes nerves in joints, ligaments, tendons and fascia.

In addition, joints will often subluxate (a minor dislocation) and need to be adjusted back into proper position.

So, if you have a repeated injury or simply want to speed recovery, give our office a call and make an appointment today!