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Icing

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By: Joel Cochran

“There can be inflammation without healing, but there cannot be healing without inflammation.”

We have all been there before, sidelined with an injury running home to start icing the injured area and keep inflammation down by taking an Advil or two.  But what if we were to tell you that after all these years of icing that we were all wrong? That icing is the exact opposite of what our body needs to recover from an injury?  What would you say to that? Well, let us explain by answering these typical questions. 

If I’m injured I should rest that area and avoid using it, right?

The worst thing you can do to your body is rest it. Motion is lotion and the more actively you are using the injured area the faster your tissue will be able to repair itself. You don’t have to be specifically activating the injured muscle but you need the activation of surrounding tissue to help your body replenish oxygen rich blood and recycle metabolic waste.

Doesn’t icing get rid of inflammation? 

Your body needs that inflammatory response to help repair damaged tissue, why would you want to limit the ability and rate of the healing process? Heat and compression are the best treatment for the majority of issues that active people face. 

Isn’t icing good to get rid of pain?

 First off we need to recognize and appreciate that our body’s problem areas are not all the same and we can’t treat them as such. Icing your tissue will numb the area but will also congest the area and slow down the healing process, trading structural repair for temporary pain relief.  If you are dealing with lateral or medial epicondylitis (tennis/golfers elbow) or bursitis, ice is great for pain management. We need to establish what are goals are so that we can use the proper therapy to effectively deal with our pain. 

Icing is great for pain. Pain is a symptom of a separate issue. If you want to ignore the issue and manage that pain, icing is an effective measure for that practice and is much safer than self-medicating with anti-inflammatories and painkillers. 

Why we all should forget about RICE (rest, ice, compress, elevate) as the go to treatment. 

RICE is something that everyone has heard about for as long as we all can remember and we need to really look at how our bodies respond to injury and help promote the phases of recovery and not inhibit them.  

There are 3 phases in the healing process: Inflammation, Repair and Remodeling.  If you impair step 1 you prevent the following steps from being able to activate and be effective. 

Icing and resting are the complete opposite of what we need to do to help our body’s speed up the recovery process. Icing congests tissues and STOPS HEALING.

 Icing actually slows down your body’s ability to heal because it creates a back flow of interstitial fluid and makes your body less efficient at getting rid of deoxygenated blood and waste.

Do not rest after you injure yourself, you don’t have to directly activate the injured tissue specifically but you do need to have active muscle innervation in the region surrounding the tissue to keep your circulatory system and your lymphatic system working as efficiently as possible. Keeping your circulatory and lymphatic systems working efficiently will let your body work the way it needs to so you can heal safely and more rapidly.

What should we do to help our body’s heal faster and stay injury free?

  • Soaking in Epsom Salt in a hot bath is helpful when you are focusing on recovery. Epsom Salt is just magnesium sulfate and it is an incredible vasodilator. Vasodilation is a result from the relaxation of smooth muscle cells within the walls of blood vessels. When those blood vessels are allowed to expand, more oxygen rich blood is able to feed your muscle tissue and help kick start the muscle recovery process.
  • Lots of water, hydrated tissue is strong tissue.
  • Lots of stretching.
  • Work on improving posture inside and outside of the gym. We all have posture that is below par and we need to help one another by reminding each other to pull those shoulders back and keep that chin up.
  • Sports Massage, whether you are digging into yourself, using a foam roller or scheduling sessions with a Licensed Massage Therapist, being able to stretch and lengthen muscle tissue is an important component in staying ahead and away from injuries.  Having full range of motion is the goal, having shortened muscle tissue the ability to use your joints full range of motion.
  • Be proactive, ask questions and talk to our Coach’s and Massage Therapist about what’s going on. There are no dumb questions and we want you to be confident in your time here. If we don’t have the right answers we can get you in touch with a professional that does have the answers your looking for.