In clinic I am often asked by patients what is the best way to help muscular or joint injury/pain at home. From a Chinese medicine viewpoint applying warmth to the area is the best way to promote healing and alleviate pain. This advice is often at odds with what the patient has been advised in the past or by other modalities. In Chinese medicine applying warmth to the area enables the flow of qi and blood (circulation) to increase in local blood vessels and tissues and thus promoting healing function and also aids in taking away any ‘old’ blood or damaged material held within the injury.
Some thoughts on using cold on injuries.
Ice is very useful for preserving things in a static state. It slows or halts the decay of food and dead bodies but does not help damaged tissue repair itself. Ice does reduce the initial swelling and inflammation of a fresh injury, and it does reduce pain, but at a cost. Contracting local blood vessels and tissues by freezing them inhibits the restoration of normal circulation. The static blood and fluids congeal, contract, and harden with icing, making them harder or impossible to disperse later.
Below is an interesting article on icing injuries from the Doctor who coined the phrase ‘RICE’, (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation).
Why Ice Delays Recovery – Article; March 16, 2014 by Gabe Mirkin.
When I wrote my best-selling Sports medicine Book in 1978, I coined the term RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) for the treatment of athletic injuries (Little Brown and Co., page 94). Ice has been a standard treatment for injuries and sore muscles because it helps to relieve pain caused by injured tissue. Coaches have used my “RICE” guideline for decades, but now it appears that both Ice and complete Rest may delay healing, instead of helping.
In a recent study, athletes were told to exercise so intensely that they developed severe muscle damage that caused extensive muscle soreness. Although cooling delayed swelling, it did not hasten recovery from this muscle damage (The American Journal of Sports Medicine, June 2013). A summary of 22 scientific articles found almost no evidence that ice and compression hastened healing over the use of compression alone, although ice plus exercise may marginally help to heal ankle sprains (The American Journal of Sports Medicine, January, 2004;32(1):251-261).
Please click on the following link for further information on Dr Mirkin’s thoughts on injury recovery http://www.drmirkin.com/fitness/why-ice-delays-recovery.html
Scott Stephens is available for consult Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at Mornington Chinese Medicine