That's right, you heard me correctly . . . I will NEVER tell you to use ICE!!!!!!!!!
I'm sure most of us are familiar with the old acronym R.I.C.E. for an acute injury. Meaning Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate. While I agree with three of the four, the one I don't agree with is to ever put ice on an injury. Chinese medicine has some pretty strong views on why you shouldn't ice.
Let me explain.
When you initially injure tissue there are physiological responses that are going to happen to the area. Initially, you will get a pain sensation up to and including, sharp, shooting, dull, boring pain. Then swelling usually starts in the area, the swelling and inflammation serves a purpose.
"Redness and heat are caused by increased blood flow. Swelling is the result of the increased movement of fluid and white blood cells into the area of inflammation. ... The pain and swelling can keep the athlete from using the injured part, serving to protect it from further injury."
The body needs the swelling to happen for a few reasons. 1. Let the person know something is wrong. Pain and swelling are an indication to protect the area from further damage. 2. Swelling brings blood (nutrition), oxygen, and White blood cells to the area.
So why do people normally ice? You have been told to ice the area in order to move the swelling out of the area. Cold constricts the blood vessels, which in turn stops bleeding and restricts blood flow in the area. You need blood flow in the area in order to repair the tissue, because as I stated above, blood is nutrition. In other words, by putting ice on the area you are assuming that swelling and inflammation aren't serving a correct physiological purpose. Your body is innately intelligent, swelling is a necessary part of the healing process.
Not only that, but at a certain degree of coldness biological function stops. This is why we freeze food, in order to stop biological decomposition. The same rules apply when you think about icing an injury. What do you want when you injure your body? You want and need your body to repair the tissues that were damaged. This cannot happen when the tissue temperature is being lowered. It decreases blood flow, increased coagulation! New blood is essential to tissue repair, stopping circulation is not in your best interest. Stop fighting your body!
I had a professor, Z'ev Rosenberg, who recently taught a class for my Doctorate program. He said, "Cold is death and Heat is life." This is the truth! What is one of the first things that happens when you die? You become Cold!
If you still need more reasons to listen to me, here they are:
1. There is a thing in Chinese Medicine called cold damage. Cold damage is pretty much like is sounds. Damage caused by cold. Adding cold to an area of injury, in Chinese theory, can actually lead to arthritis in the local joints. The inflammation that is caused by arthritis is actually the body using heat to drive out the cold damage.
2. The Dr that recommended and coined the term R.I.C.E. no longer recommends it . . . for some of the reasons I listed above and some others. Read his article here . . .
I tell my patients to stop icing and apply heat. Heat increases circulation of the blood and nutrition that you body needs to heal itself. Often, this one small recommendation can give way to BIG results. I love it, my patients love it, so next time you go to reach for the ice think twice!
-Jennifer Niemeyer L.Ac. Subscribe to my Wellness Newsletter
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