Since the 1970s, RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is recognized as the ‘Gold Standard’ treatment option following injuries and muscle soreness. The first instinct of myriad coaches and parents is to immediately apply an ice pack to the area of injury, following the idea that ice restricts blood flow to the area and therefore numbs pain and keeps initial swelling from increasing in injured tissue. However, new research suggests this may not be the case. In fact, in order to heal faster inflammation is necessary. Here’s how:
When you damage tissue through trauma or develop muscle soreness by exercising very intensely, you heal by using your immunity, the same biological mechanisms that you use to kill germs. This is called inflammation. When muscles and other tissues are damaged, your immunity sends the inflammatory cells to the damaged tissue to promote healing. Inflammatory cells rush to injured tissue to start the healing process.
Ice Keeps Healing Cells from Entering Injured Tissue
Applying ice to injured tissue causes blood vessels near the injury to constrict and shut off the blood flow that brings in the healing cells of inflammation. The blood vessels do not open again for many hours after the ice was applied. This decreased blood flow can cause the tissue to die from decreased blood flow and can even cause permanent nerve damage
Ice Also Reduces Strength, Speed, Endurance, and Coordination
Ice is often used as a short-term treatment to help injured athletes get back into a game. The cooling may help to decrease pain, but it interferes with the athlete’s strength, speed, endurance, and coordination. A short re-warming period returned the strength, speed, and coordination. The authors recommend that if cooling is done at all to limit swelling, it should be done for less than five minutes, followed by progressive warming prior to returning to play.
- If you are injured, stop exercising immediately.
- If the pain is severe if you are unable to move get checked by a doctor immediately.
- If sports injury is limited to muscle or soft tissues, compression bandage should be applied.
- Since applying ice to an injury has been shown to reduce pain, it is acceptable to cool an injured part for short periods soon after the injury occurs. You could apply the ice for up to 10 minutes, remove it for 20 minutes, and repeat the 10-minute application once or twice. There is no reason to apply ice more than six hours after you have injured yourself.
Dr. Mansi Parikh,
Co-Founder EndoRush App
Download EndoRush App for daily health updates.