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ICE Numbing the Bodies Healing Response

“Inflammation can occur without healing, but healing cannot occur without inflammation.”

~Leadbetter, WB

Who's not familiar with the R.I.C.E. method? After every injury, we've always been told to Rest ~ Ice ~ Compress ~ Elevate. Let us thaw out the misconception of ICE and how it supposedly helps us through our injury and healing.

What if we curiously consider how mobile something is once it is frozen? A liquid can expand into open space, slosh, wave, and move yet when we freeze it there is NO movement no ability to change. Now, consider that we are between 50-75% water depending on our age. If we apply ice what is that going to do to our tissue?

Yes, it can decrease pain, and reduce swelling, but could there be negative outcomes using it long-term? Does it truly give the body the best environment to heal or could it actually be hindering the healing process?

There is a misconception that we need to stop inflammation. What if we realize that inflammation is a healthy and necessary repair response? In order for our bodies to begin repairing they must process through inflammation (this happens within our circulatory and lymphatic systems). When we slow the inflammation process by icing, we also slow our body's healing (slowing circulation and lymph slows toxin removal).

Pause for a moment and consider how can our tissue heal if frozen. How do we know that we aren't causing further damage by deadening the pain? Pain is the body's security system signaling we have an issue in our tissue (Houston we have a problem).

So if we numb the pain, we numb our ability to feel, if we numb our ability to feel, we numb our ability to make healthy decisions on our movability. Thus, we are more likely to push our bodies or move imbalanced. Which compound and cause further issues.

For example:

  • Slow limited recovery

  • Reinjury or compounding injury

  • Additional scar tissue (hindering mobility, flexibility, and increasing tension. Which can create further injury, imbalance, misalignment, and cause severe pain.)

  • Unnecessary Surgery (because we were numb and pushed the tissue issue)

For more detail take a look at the attached article from "The Sports Journal". The studies found ice possibly beneficial for pain management but found nothing supporting it decreasing swelling and benefiting recovery.

Next up: 3 Strategies to Support healthy injury recovery. Subscribe to our Newsletter to be the first to see new Posts.

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