We all know the acronym R.I.C.E - Rest - Ice - Compression - Elevation.
In this article I will help you to understand why we shouldn't
ice and why it belongs with the ideology during the Ice Age.
Before I get started, here is a little bit of knowledge for you. People are more likely to be diagnosed with Diabetes in the months between November and February. Also, the colder the climate the more prevalent Diabetes will be. What have winter and cold climates got to do with Diabetes?
A wine maker experienced a sudden frost which meant his grapes decided to stop growing. Instead of throwing all the grapes away, he decided to try make wine with the frozen grapes. He discovered that his wine was so much sweeter. It gave him a 1/3 the amount of what he would normally harvest and this lead to frost wine. Again, what has this got to do with Diabetes.
The temperature lowers and the grapes freeze
Instead of the ice destroying the cells in the grapes, the grape gets rid of the liquid.
Less liquid means that the grape wont be destroyed by all the ice crystals.
This leaves a higher concentrate of sugar in the grape, leaving a sweeter wine.
This is exactly what happens humans. Our body will try rid of any excess water so that it doesn't turn to ice crystals and destroy our cells. Our body is left with more sugar
Finally, this is where I can start talking about why icing an injury makes no sense. You will probably disagree with me and this is where I will logically explain why in the easiest way I can.
You go over your ankle and the natural response is excess fluid rushes to the area effected to protect and limit the range of motion in the ankle.
This fluid is thick. It is removed through the lymphatic system which runs parallel to the circulatory system. If you ice the area, it will restrict the vessels in both the circulatory system and the lymphatic system that are already compressed by the swelling.
Ask yourself these questions.
What is your intent while icing?
Have you seen a reduction in swelling straight after you iced the area?
I’ll answer the questions for you. 1) reduce swelling, and 2) No.
Don’t just take my word for it. A study from The Journal Of Athletic Medicine found that the marker for muscle damage was raised after icing. It showed that it actually caused more damage. Furtherer, it showed that the lymphatic vessels started to back flow after you turn off the signals to the muscles and the nerves from icing. In fact it increased swelling to the area not decreased it.
You cannot prevent swelling form occurring once you've injured the area. You can delay it using ice. But one you stopped delaying the natural inflammatory response, the body goes back to doing what it was supposed to be doing in the first place.
Simply put, icing will slow down recovery by delaying the natural inflammatory response, plus it will take longer for your body to recover the damage caused by the ice you applied. Using the same principle of the frozen grapes, your body will rid of water by urination and you can be left with a higher concentration of sugar in the body, and we all know that sugar is inflammatory.
Does icing work for pain reduction?
For the majority of the time, pain is caused by a congested area. In this case swelling. Decongesting the area will reduce pain and increases range of motion. Using what I explained above that icing slows down the response to remove the fluid, you are still left with a congested area, and still left with pain.
So what can we do instead of ice?
Movement > waist out > new oxygenated blood > recovered area.
Im not talking about continuing the activity. Movement with a smaller range of motion and increasing it within the pain limitations will help the body pump the swelling out and also bring fresh oxygenated blood to the area.
Using a recovery pump system. Although these are very expensive (about €4000), you can also use a tens machine with compression. A tense machine can be purchased for about €20+. Much more effective and it doesn't cause a huge amount of pain like icing does.
However, you should always see a therapist first to see what extent the damage has done to the area and what sort of exercises can be done to the area.
I will leave you with these 4 quotes from 4 different journals all disproving that ice is the wrong method to healing an injury.
"Topical cooling (icing) delays recovery." -Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research/National Strength and Conditioning Association (2013)
"Ice is commonly used after acute muscle strains but there are no clinical studies of its effectiveness." -British Journal of Sports Medicine (2012)
"There is insufficient evidence to suggest that cryotherapy [icing] improves clinical outcome." –Journal of Emergency Medicine (2008)
"…Ice may not be the best treatment for aching muscles — in fact, it could even be detrimental to recovery." –University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (2011)