Icing After an Injury: Good Idea or a Recipe for Disaster?

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When someone sprains an ankle or jams their finger, what’s the first item most people reach for right off the bat? Ice. For years, the acronym RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) was the accepted standard for treating injuries, whether it was a professional athlete, middle school basketball player, or even a housewife who sprained her ankle speed walking. However, some recent studies have shown that icing an injury may not be the best option, which has people wondering: is icing after an injury a good idea, or is it a recipe for disaster?

What to Do After an Injury

If you’ve just been injured, chances are you’re in pain, and you’re unsure of what to do next. Most people would instinctively reach for the ice and then call up their doctor. However, the pandemic has made it challenging to head to the doctor, particularly for same-day appointments. That’s where telehealth comes in-;it’s an excellent, contact-free alternative to a traditional doctor’s office that allows for a safe way to get services. Those with injuries might want to try physiotherapy with Therapia.com, which is one of the best telehealth platforms for injury recovery that offers one-on-one treatment right inside your home. Physiotherapy helps you regain freedom of movement, range of motion, relieves pain, and reduces stiffness and overall muscle strain, which is why it’s so critical for injury recovery.

Why Icing an Injury is a Bad Idea

While the acronym RICE was created in 1978 and has been used ever since some recent studies have shown that the ice component of RICE is not a good idea and can even delay healing. Originally, icing an injury was supposed to diminish the body’s inflammatory response by accelerating the healing process.

Most people use ice due to its anti-swelling and pain-relieving, analgesic properties. It can help numb a twisted or rolled ankle that hurts pretty badly. However, it’s not been shown that not only does ice delay the healing process, but that complete rest is also not a good idea.

The Inflammation Process

The RICE protocol was developed by Dr. Gabe Mirkin, who now believes that delaying the inflammation can adversely affect healing. When the human body is injured, it sends out messages to macrophages, which are inflammatory cells. The macrophages then circulate a hormone called Insulin-like Growth Factor, or IGF-1. The function of these cells is to start the healing process by eliminating damaged body tissue. When ice is applied, it delays this process and prevents the release of the IGF-1 hormone. Ultimately, this slows down the start of the healing process, which means a much slower recovery.

PEACE and LOVE

Now that RICE was officially rescinded in 2019, the new protocol to follow is PEACE and LOVE. The PEACE and LOVE protocols stand for Protection, Elevation, Avoid Anti-Inflammatories, Compression, Education, and Load, Optimism, Vascularization, and Exercise. This is the newest practice and is used by physiotherapists, rehabilitation therapists, and sports medicine specialists.

Final Thoughts on Icing Injuries

However, the real question of using ice for injuries remains: if ice does relieve pain by numbing, should it ever be used for comfort reasons, even if it delays the healing process? Well, it’s a personal decision-;but really, it probably should be avoided. However, while some inflammation is necessary, too much is always a bad idea and can cause edema. If you have prolonged inflammation, you should always contact a physician before the injury progresses further. However, with the proper treatment techniques, skipping the ice, and some exercise, you’ll be back to new in no time.