I am a firm believer that mother nature knows best. Why, then, do we continue to try and improve an already perfect system? If you get injured, your body already knows what to do without your involvement!! Convenient, huh?
There are three phases of healing: inflammation, proliferation, and remodeling. During the inflammation phase, prostaglandins initiate multiple tasks: stimulation of the immune system, building up platelets around the lesion, and attracting white blood cells to protect against infection and clean up the damaged tissue. Specialized cells called fibroblasts produce disorganized fibrous (scar) tissue.
Icing effectively cuts the connection between the injured tissue and the circulation of platelets, white blood cells, and fibroblasts to the injured tissue.
So why do we ice? Conventional wisdom tells us that we ice injuries to reduce inflammation. Well, are we seriously deluded enough to think that we really know how much inflammation is too much for our body? The swelling is actually the result of the end of the inflammation phase. That’s not a bad thing!!
What we’re after is the elimination of all the waste at the end of the phase (reduce swelling). This occurs through the lymphatic system – not the circulatory system. Unlike the circulatory system with the heart, the lymphatic system does not have a pump. The lymphatic system drains by muscular contraction and movement. This should put the “Rest” in R.I.C.E. to rest once and for all (pun intended).
Now the problem with icing is that it increases lymphatic permeability. According to the Sports Medicine Journal, Vol. 3, pp. 398-414 (1986) ”as lymphatic permeability is enhanced, large amounts of fluid begin to pour from the lymphatics ‘in the wrong direction’ (into the injured area), increasing the amount of local swelling and potentially contributing to greater pain“. Did you all get that? Icing INCREASES the amount of swelling and potentially creates more pain.
By icing, you are preventing the inflammation phase to complete the way it should. In turn, this prevents the second and third phase from occurring. So icing PREVENTS healing!! Sure, it will help to numb pain and get you back in the game faster if that’s your goal. But for most of us, shouldn’t the goal be actual healing and not just symptom reduction?
Yikes. Heavy stuff, huh? If icing doesn’t work to heal the area, what can we do?! Movement – but be smart about it!! If it hurts, don’t do it. There is always manipulation we can do around the area of pain. Compression and elevation will also help to drain the lymphatic system.
Please read the Mobility WOD article and definitely watch the video below. Let me know your thoughts!!