A Heated Debate: Icing Injuries

What is inflammation? 

Many are under the impression that inflammation is negative. Inflammation is the result of the body trying to protect itself from harm. Part of the body’s natural immune response, this biological function is a sign that the body is beginning the healing process from within. Inflammation after an initial injury is beneficial; however, inflammation can occur over longer periods in response to an injury that is not healing properly. In this case, it is possible for adhesions and scar tissue to build up at the site of the injury, inhibiting the full function of soft tissue. In cases of acute inflammation, it is important to let this natural cascade process run its course. In cases of chronic inflammation, it is important to begin to regulate and control the inflammation so that it does not create negative pressure on soft tissues, nerves, and blood supply.6ddd136806441490a830ac4130d9c091

Assumed methods of treating an injury.

Many people are taught the RICE method for treating acute injury. RICE stands for:
* Relative Rest (minimize movement of the injured body part)
* Ice (apply a cold pack)
* Compression (a light pressure wrap applied to the affected body part can help minimize leakage of blood and swelling)
* Elevation (raise the body part up so that the pressure from the blood and tissue swelling the affected area is reduced as the fluids drain from the area by gravity)

To Ice or Not To Ice?

The second step of RICE is to ice the injured area. It is recommended that a cold pack is applied to the injured tissue and moved around the area every 1-2 minutes and to not ice the area for any more than 20 minutes at a time. The rationale behind icing is to reduce the heat, redness, and pain caused by inflammation following an injury. “Because the swelling and inflammation that follows an injury is due to the leakage of blood from the ruptured capillaries, cold applications with ice can help by causing the blood vessels to constrict. This constriction of the blood vessels prevents further leakage of blood and serum and minimizes swelling and pain” (Leary, 2008).

However, other sources argue that icing is damaging to the healing process. Because inflammation is the first part of the body’s own natural healing process, others feel that it is important not to stand in its way. “Evidence has shown that tissue loading through exercise or other mechanical means stimulates gene transcription, proteogenesis, and formation of type I collagen fibers” (Stone, 2013). Therefore, icing does not support natural healing, tissue growth and repair, and only serves as a temporary reprieve from the necessary pain that accompanies the first flush of inflammation.

Conclusions.

Pain can be inhibitory for returning to activity. Therefore, it is important to use icing sparingly in order to remove discomfort. But it is important not to use it so much that natural healing mediated through inflammation is decreased. Dependence on ice can only prove to be inhibitory to returning to function due to its effects on slowing cellular repair; however, it is also important not to overstress an injured tissue with exercise to stimulate cellular repair before the tissue is physically capable of sustained levels of activity. Monitored activity that is tailored to sustaining a level of function without disrupting tissue repair is key.

Chiropractic care is a positive method to treat sports and orthopedic injuries. The treatment team at SF Custom Chiropractic has knowledge and experience in treating a wide array of acute and repetitive stress injuries. A chiropractic adjustment is anti-inflammatory. Similarly, soft tissue treatment modalities such as Active Release Technique (ART) work to clear up fibrous adhesions from chronic inflammation in order to promote functional movement and tissue healing.

To learn more about the benefits of chiropractic treatment of orthopedic and sports injuries, call (415) 788-8700.

 

Sources:
Leary, P. (2008). Injuries: To ice or heat? . LECOM Healthy News. Retrieved May 6, 2014, from http://lecom.edu/healthynews.php/injuries-to-ice-or-to-heat/76/0/2818/13542

Stone, J. (2013, November). Why Ice and Anti-inflammatory Medication is NOT the Answer. Stone Athletic Medicine. Retrieved May 6, 2014, from http://stoneathleticmedicine.com/2013/11/why-ice-and-anti-inflammatory-medication-is-not-the-answer/