Discussion and debate regarding icing after an injury is often a hot topic among health professionals, leaving the general public unsure about what to do after an ankle sprain at soccer or jar to the finger at footy on the weekend.
Following an injury, strain, sprain or contusion there tends to be immediate pain followed by a period of increasing swelling and bruising. When tissues are damaged the inflammatory process begins with increased blood flow encouraging transportation of cells and nutrients to the area that aid in tissue healing and repair. The main argument made by ‘anti-icers’ is that using ice in this period causes the blood flow to decrease, delaying the normal inflammatory healing processes and therefore slowing down injury recovery.
All of this talk and debate is still purely observation and theoretical with no high-quality evidence-based studies showing that using ice on an injury delays the healing process significantly or worsens the outcome of an injury.
Ice is still once of the cheapest, easiest and most accessible pain relievers available to date. A decrease in pain means movement of the injured area can occur and recovery through exercise can begin. Exercise following injury is the most effective tool to speed up recovery and prevent re-injury and this is widely researched with hundreds and thousands of evidence-based studies to support.
It is still recommended that ice is used for 10-20 mins every 2 hours for 48-72 hours post-acute soft tissue injury, in addition to Rest, Compression & Elevation.
If you have a serious injury, always consult a health professional for expert advice.