Icing an injury is one of the most common treatment modalities. But is icing actually beneficial?
For decades, coaches and doctors have recommended applying ice to minor injuries like sprains and strains. The method itself is straightforward, apply ice, put pressure on it, and rest. This approach to recovery has been massively popular because it doesn’t require any special equipment or expertise.
The idea got popular in 1978 with the book Sportsmedicine Book written by Dr. Gabe Mirkin. Since the book’s publication, Dr. Mirkin has actually changed his stance on ice as a helpful recovery modality. By staying up to date with new recovery research, Dr. Mirkin’s views on ice adapted and evolved. He now believes that applying ice to injured tissue causes the blood vessel to constrict and stop the blood flow necessary for healing and processing inflammation.
Ice Isn’t Good for Recovery.
Since the late ’70s, many more studies have been conducted that specifically examine cold therapy’s effect on soft tissue injury. One 2008 meta-analysis that examined multiple studies found that there isn’t enough evidence to suggest icing improves the healing of soft tissue injuries.
Studies have concluded that applying ice is based largely on anecdotal evidence or someone saying the modality works without any hard data. Anecdotal evidence is hard to counteract. People tend to believe in what they think works and have seen work, even if research evidence disproves their reasoning. Icing injuries is just one example.
Ice Harmful for Recovery?
Ice may be the safest, simplest pain relief tool we have at our disposal. When used to numb an injury, ice is beneficial. But when used for more than 5 minutes, according to Dr. Mirkin, ice can be detrimental to the body’s natural tissue repair process. Extended use of ice can also lead to reduced strength, flexibility, and endurance.
Ice is not an ideal recovery method because it has the effect of slowing your body’s natural response, which is essential to healing. It’s better to use a modality that enhances your body’s natural recovery response, like light therapy.
Light Therapy Heals Better than Ice
Healthy light intake is a key part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Like exercise, nutritious eating, and restful sleep, healthy light intake can greatly impact managing recovery. You can enhance cellular function and help support your body’s natural recovery process with light therapy treatments.
Inflammation & Red Light Therapy
Inflammation is a natural response to injury and an integral part of the healing process. In a healthy response to stress or injury, inflammation sets in within a few hours and works to clear the damaged tissue and start the repair process. Once the injury or strain is healed, the inflammation gradually fades away.
Ice and red light therapy have very different effects on inflammation. Ice works to suppress the body’s inflammatory response, while red light therapy supports inflammation management. Ice prevents normal inflammation from doing its job, which is to help us heal and process strain. Red light therapy can speed up the recovery process by helping the body process inflammation and oxidative stress more efficiently. Dr. Michael Hamblin of Harvard Medical School is one of the world’s leading photomedicine researchers, and he believes light therapy produces an “overall reduction in inflammation.”
Sleep is Still Key for Recovery
Dr. Mirkin may have changed his stance on ice usage for recovery, but basic rest remains a core recovery component. There’s no substitute for sleep when it comes to your body’s ability to heal itself. Red light therapy treatments are designed to enhance cellular function. They support a balanced lifestyle with healthy light in the comfort of your own home, which can positively impact the quality of your sleep.