After any injury, be it a sports injury, a fall, or a car accident, ice is the standard treatment to bring down inflammation. Ice cools the tissues. In the short term, cooling helps with pain and reduces inflammation, but long term it can be detrimental to the healing process and be a cause for chronic pain and mobility issues. For my patients, I recommend no ice after the first 48 hours, if I prescribe ice at all. I have found that using acupuncture for injury treatment is far more effective.
What Happens After an Injury
The moment after an injury occurs, the body begins rapidly sending tools to repair the injury. Along with fresh oxygen and nutrients, these repair tools are carried in the blood. The blood pools in the injured area causing swelling and inflammation of the tissues and eventually results in a bruise. Once that happens, the site of the injury becomes clogged and healing slows.
The Effects of Ice
When ice is applied it causes the blood to congeal like frozen honey. This means the damaged cells and cell waste cannot be carried away. Meanwhile more blood is sent to the offended area to help, but only ends up clogging the site even further. In addition to congealing the blood, ice tightens and constricts the tissues, which can create more pain, although you may not be able to feel it while you are still numb from the ice. Don’t get me wrong, ice is incredible for reducing inflammation and pain, and if it is your only option, then embrace it. But consider that there are additional ways to care for your injuries.
Acupuncture for Injury Treatment
If I can see a patient within the first 48 hours of an injury, I can replace the use of ice with a number of East Asian medicine modalities including cupping, plasters, external and internal herbs as well as specific needling techniques to reduce inflammation, increase circulation, speed healing and reduce pain. The number one tool I use is a traditional herbal liniment used for thousands of years by great Chinese warriors and martial artists. This liniment cools the tissues like ice to reduce inflammation and pain but without freezing the tissues. At the same time, the liniment increases the blood flow to the area surrounding the site to speed healing. With proper follow up visits, clients usually recover quicker and have fewer long term pain or mobility issues.
Stay active Portland. Save the ice for your drink.