Icing was always a part of athletes’ life, but never to the extremes it is today. It almost seems to be the most recommended treatment for injuries, especially so in running. One can find heat application being recommended also, but not nearly as much as it should be and sometimes not for the right reasons. To say the least about strength exercises recovery, massage and such.
Icing or cold therapy with ice is recommended primarily for numbing the pain and reducing the swelling. Since pain is our body’s signal that there is a problem and swelling is reduced by freezing the tissue, in reality icing does nothing more than masking the problem and deflecting your attention. Unless there is an open wound and blood needs to be stopped or there is a need to drop the body temperature (fever, overheating), application of ice to a human body is really not a good idea.
While majority of us agree that icing does not carry any healing qualities, some go as far as to state that icing helps with overuse injuries and painful joints. To stop the overuse injuries one should examine his technique and training, applying an ice-pack won’t make technical problems go away. Your joints will do better, when treated with warmth. The reality is that cold from ice does not penetrate deeper, than the top layer of your muscles, directly under your skin. A human body has to maintain a certain temperature to live. If the temperature drops below that – the body stops functioning. So if icing could really reach your joints to ice them, you’d be in trouble and have some dead tissue on your body.
Living tissue does better with warmer temperatures. It heals better and faster and it weathers the distress of an injury better. Application of ice to the injured area might temporarily relieve you from feeling pain and freeze the tissue to stop the blood flow to reduce the swelling, but that will also stop the healing process. In order to heal itself, your body needs the blood to flow through the injured area. Strangely enough, today, it is considered a bad thing by many. But why would anyone get in the way of healing their injuries? Why first stop the natural healing by freezing everything with ice and then try to artificially re-initiate it with medicine? Why not do it right from the beginning?
Next time you have an inflammation, instead of icing it, try applying a flat-cut piece of room temperature raw potato slice to the affected area or a warm compress soaked in apple cider vinegar. If you wish to take any medicine – take one aspirin. Next time you get a bruise, rub it immediately through the pain instead of applying ice, and you will notice that the pain associated with the bruise will lessen a lot quicker than usual and the skin discoloration will be a lot less, if it happens at all.
It will serve you well to always remember that icing has a rather narrow purpose and limited usage, and you can absolutely do without it. As a matter of fact you will help speed up your healing if you skip the “ice therapy”. Next time you have an injury, and let’s hope that it doesn’t happen, but if it does, don’t ice it. Instead take care of it with one of the treatments described above and then take a hot bath with apple cider vinegar or go to sauna (which has always been hugely popular in Russian and European athletic circles) before calling it a day.
There are many ways to deal with injuries and application of ice is just one, small and rather insignificant step that is not necessary as often as it is recommended nowadays. Unless your injury was caused by a random accident like hitting something, or tripping and falling, your next move is to break the unproductive cycle of repeating your mistakes and address errors in your technique, that are causing your injuries instead of numbing the pain and hoping the injures would just go away.