Ever notice how some “experts” are keen to make BIG statements in order to get their opinions heard? And even better, if this advice can go against the “norm” the excitement is even greater and the number of people talking about it escalates! Icing for injuries is the perfect example.
Over the last decade or so, some “excited experts” have been making waves with opinions that suggest icing is limiting the body’s natural inflammatory response and will slow down your healing. In Sports Medicine (like a lot of things), you can always find “evidence” to support your opinion, no matter what it is, so some people have jumped on this bandwagon and run with it.
Don’t get caught up in it, keep it simple, and as always, use your common sense with these things. You are intelligent and analytical. Your view of the effectiveness of a treatment is probably just as accurate as any “expert’s” opinion!
So, a very brief summary of the available evidence on icing for injuries is this:
- it is effective in providing some non-drug pain relief (which is a good thing);
- it will not slow down the healing of an acute injury…in reality, it just doesn’t have that much umph, as the cold doesn’t penetrate that deeply below the skin’s surface;
- it is not a miracle treatment…it probably has very little (if any) effect on returning you to normal activities faster than you would without it.
If you injure yourself, put some ice on it as quickly as you can for about 15-20 minutes. If it helps, repeat it every 2-3 hours to relieve some of your pain and avoid taking other more aggressive pain relievers (always a good outcome). As a panacea for delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after a heavy session, it’s probably good for the psychology (which I think is great) but has little impact on the physiology.