Many of us were taught to ice an injury as part of R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, and elevate). Grabbing an ice pack is usually one of the first reactions when someone gets injured. While icing an injury may help to numb the pain, research is showing that reducing the inflammation can inhibit healing. The healing factors that the body creates can’t reach the area of injury as readily because circulation is slowed down by the application of ice. Using ice doesn’t always reduce pain as some people experience increased pain when ice is applied to an injured area. Direct exposure to ice over time can cause a burn as well. Aside from recent research, the principles of East Asian medicine (aka Traditional Chinese Medicine) along with some of the basic laws of physics can explain why ice not beneficial to use on an injury. Not using ice on an injury is a widely accepted practice in East Asian Medicine. Pain occurs as a result of stagnation when circulation is inhibited. Since cold inhibits circulation, ice would ultimately inhibit the healing process. This concept of temperature affecting healing can be applied using the basic principles of physics. When something is cold, it is moving more slowly, congeals, and becomes stagnant. While if something is warm or hot, it moves faster and more freely. By icing an injury, vessels contract reducing circulation and preventing the healing cells of inflammation from reaching the site of injury. While ice may help to numb the pain, ice ultimately slows down the healing process. It is more beneficial to not use ice on injuries in order to promote quicker healing times. Other treatments such as acupuncture and adjunctive therapies can help to alleviate the pain while promoting healing.
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