Icing Injuries? Not me!
I have an unconventional view of icing injuries. The traditional medical view says that if you sprain your ankle, you absolutely should put ice on it to control the inflammation and keep swelling and pain down. The rationale is that this will make you more comfortable and keep the rest of the tissues healthy by preventing any sort of edema and pressure from inflicting further harm than the original insult.I think that’s crazy.Let me say that again. I think that’s crazy, IF your goal is healing. If, for example, you are an athlete, and you want to get yourself back out on the field as quickly as possible, and you don’t care that you’ve just damaged tendons or ligaments or whatever, then great! Ice away that pain and inflammation, let the body throw scar tissue down later and then do a bunch of rehab to treat an injury that will likely trouble you for years afterwards. But at least you’ll get to perform!
Okay, that sounds harsh, and I know it. It’s a perfectly valid choice if the goal is performance. In the athlete’s case, that’s how they earn a living! I get that they need to sacrifice their body for that.
But what about the rest of us?
Consider: What if, there were an intelligence at work in the body? What if the body already knew how to deal with an injury because it had thousands, if not tens of thousands of years practice perfecting a system that works? Do you really think it’s making inflammation because it’s wrong? No. Here’s what inflammation (acute inflammation, that is) does with an injury. Pain and Swelling!
Pain: By making it hurt, you are less likely to step on it. That means you aren’t as likely to continue to injure it. Great plan! When you dull the pain with ice (or an analgesic or muscle relaxant or ibuprofen) you are no longer in communication with your body and don’t know your real capacity. The risk for further injury is higher that way.
Swelling: Not only does this bring fluid to the area, but it splints the affected limb as well. The fluid brings in all kinds of white blood cells to clean up the damage, prevent and heal any infection that might have occurred, and generally clean up and start the healing process. It also allows for more fluid to clear out, thus removing toxins. Stopping this process will halt all of that. And what do we do without the swelling to splint it? Of course we wrap it another splint.
Both of these further the case for healing. Putting up your foot is a great idea, and in fact, I’ve found that when I injure myself like that, it simply feels better to elevate it. No drugs necessary! And it’s likely a good thing to do so because of the increased fluid flow back to the heart, speeding the toxin clear out. When the foot stops feeling pain, maybe you’re ready to walk on it again!
But don’t take my word for it. Just try it next time you’re hurt. See if it helps. The last time I did, I healed an injury site that I had been chronically injuring repeatedly for almost 20 years. Haven’t hurt it since.