Finally, conventional sports medicine catches up with Chinese traumatology. In Chinese medicine, we NEVER recommend ice for injuries. Simple physics will tell you that ice applications will constrict blood vessels which will reduce blood flow to the injury, meaning less waste products removed and less nutrition delivered therefore slower healing.
Now Gabe Mirkin, M.D., author of The Sportsmedicine Book (I got my copy in 1979), is recanting his RICE recommendation, based on published research that shows that ice applications impede healing and reduce the strength of injured tissues. He writes:
Ice Keeps Healing Cells from Entering Injured Tissue
Applying ice to injured tissue causes blood vessels near the injury to
constrict and shut off the blood flow that brings in the healing cells
of inflammation (Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc, published
online Feb 23, 2014). The blood vessels do not open again for many
hours after the ice was applied. This decreased blood flow can cause the
tissue to die from decreased blood flow and can even cause permanent
Anything That Reduces Inflammation Also Delays Healing
Anything that reduces your immune response will also delay muscle healing. Thus, healing is delayed by:
* cortisone-type drugs,
* almost all pain-relieving medicines, such as non-steroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen (Pharmaceuticals, 2010;3(5)),
* immune suppressants that are often used to treat arthritis, cancer or psoriasis,
* applying cold packs or ice, and
* anything else that blocks the immune response to injury.
Ice Also Reduces Strength, Speed, Endurance and Coordination
Ice is often used as short-term treatment to help injured athletes get
back into a game. The cooling may help to decrease pain, but it
interferes with the athlete’s strength, speed, endurance and
coordination (Sports Med, Nov 28, 2011). In this review, a
search of the medical literature found 35 studies on the effects of
cooling . Most of the studies used cooling for more than 20 minutes, and
most reported that immediately after cooling, there was a decrease in
strength, speed, power and agility-based running. A short re-warming
period returned the strength, speed and coordination. The authors
recommend that if cooling is done at all to limit swelling, it should be
done for less than five minutes, followed by progressive warming prior
to returning to play.
In my practice I have seen this many time, people using ice on injuries because their physician, chiropractor, or physical therapist told them to do it, and the injury never heals. Often the tissue feels cold to touch. When I get them off the ice, and start using Chinese herbal trauma liniments and sometimes heat applications when indicated, the tissue finally heals. For acute injuries, to reduce swelling, we use liniments that increase blood flow, like the classic Shaolin Die Da Jiao (literally translated, "Strike and Fall Wine"). We also use internal medicines that increase blood flow to the injured area.
This is a good example of how false doctrines can hold sway even among people who consider themselves "scientific." Also a good example of the failure of short-range logic. Yes ice brings down the swelling, but the swelling is part of the healing process. Its like using drugs to suppress fevers; the fever is part of the immune reaction, so if you suppress it, you are suppressing the immune reaction and the healing.