Should I ice it?
Back in the dark ages, when King Arthur ruled and I was a newly minted massage therapist, this was an easily answered question.
It was lovely. We had a great acronym to help out with new injuries called, RICE. Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. It was neat, tidy and to the point. If you had a chronic neck ache or insert nagging injury here, you could put heat on it. But the standard answer was always ice or ice, heat, ice. I was wrong. We all were.
Probably about 7 years ago I heard the inklings of a movement in the scientific community that maybe RICE wasn’t the answer. As with all research, one tends to just blow past it until you hear more rumblings. I stuck my head in the sand for another year or so, but I couldn’t do it any more. The research had finally come out and I had to come to grips with being wrong. This Mobility WOD piece from Kelly Starrett goes into some of the research.
Inflammation is your body’s way of triage. Heat and swelling move in to stabilize the area. Inflammation after an injury is the body’s way of trying to stabilize the injury. The swelling is the body trying to pump blood and nutrients to the injured area and also draw away the “bad blood”, etc. Ice slows down blood flow, slows down movement, and really just preserves things. But you don’t want to “preserve” your injury. You want it gone! Typically when we leave the body alone to do what it intuitively wants to do, we can’t go wrong.
What’s Your Goal?
Is ice a bad idea? It depends what your goal is. Do you want to numb the area to stop the pain? Then ice may be your choice. But realize that it is going to delay the recovery process. Do you want to get better quicker? Then that ankle might do better with compression, elevation and (ready for this?) movement. Rest is a no brainer when you have just injured something. Get off it, elevate it (if it is attached to a limb) and after an hour or more, do some compression. Movement comes into play shortly thereafter. Movement uses your lymphatic system to flush that swelling out. I think our new acronym is CEM. Compression, Elevation & Movement.
Tissue mobility will help get you down the path to healing much faster. Be it just moving the area, massage or lymphatics movement is your friend.
Sing It From the Rooftops
Many people will shake their heads at you because RICE is so ingrained in our athletic culture. But remember friends, tried and true methods always need to be looked at periodically to make sure they are valid. Tell all your friends and neighbors about CEM!