When you injure yourself, more often than not you will be told to immediately ice the area to reduce inflammation. But, is icing for injuries actually good advice? Does icing provide a benefit beyond immediate but temporary pain relief? And, on a deeper level, is reducing inflammation actually a good thing for you to do?
After all, the human body is an incredibly efficient and effective organic machine, often able to heal itself from injury and disease, if only we allow it to do so. What if inflammation is a good thing? What if, “The buildup of fluid, swelling or edema at the site should be considered a positive reaction as it increases sensitivity to pain (to prevent us from further injuring the tissue), restricts movement (to prevent us from further injuring the tissue) and allows the inflammatory process to progress (to help us repair the injured tissue).” Dr. Bahram Jam, DScPT, MPhty, BScPT, CredMDT, for PhysicalTherapyWeb.com
And, from Howard J Luks, MD, “When you are injured, the blood vessels to the area dilate. That causes the swelling and warmth you notice. The increase in blood flow brings with it very potent chemicals, proteins and cells. Those chemicals and cells set off a cascade of reactions that we refer to as inflammation. More importantly, this is also what initiates the HEALING process. Yes, inflammation is a necessary part of the healing process.”
Why icing to reduce inflammation is bad for you
If you inhibit inflammation following an injury, you actually slow down the healing process! In Chinese medicine, which is a large part of the healing practices we use, healing occurs when energy is flowing smoothly throughout your body. When you sustain an injury, energy gets blocked, causing pain and inflammation to the area involved.
Icing your injury will cause more blockage of the natural flow of energy your body uses to heal itself – making things worse – and retarding the healing process.
In short, I do not agree with icing for injuries, except for a brief period for pain management if pain is severe. When the goal is healing, better to have acupuncture to improve the flow of energy to the affected area – and to promote, rather than slow – the healing process.
Are you curious about the efficacy of acupuncture for pain management and healing? If so, get in touch with Dr. Shiroko today.