Applying ice to an injury has become the standard procedure for millions of people around the world. However, the commonly accepted method of healing has been called into question recently, as opponents argue that it may actually be inhibiting the healing process. While most people, even professional athletes, continue to use the icing method to nurse injuries, health professionals have introduced the prospect of better alternatives.
— Abby Lyall, Nia Creator
The effectiveness of icing can vary: this Nia quotes a source that says that icing doesn't help injuries and may even delay the healing process, while another source says that icing helps to decrease inflammation better than heat.
However, if you have a sprain/strain/tendonitis, ice won't really help and heat is a better alternative because it'll help soothe your muscles and lead to a faster recovery than ice will.
I think ice can help, but I also think there are instances in which there can be a better alternative; it's entirely situational.
While the research on icing is still somewhat limited, the evidence seems to indicate that we may need to search for alternative methods of treating injuries.
Icing can help with pain management, but it may slow the healing process and might even cause the injury to worsen. I will likely continue to ice my injuries, because I like the pain relief it provides and my injuries are never serious, but I would say that athletes should try to find better alternatives to help maintain their performance.
According to the Nia, ice seems to provide immediate pain relief, whether it is due to ice's ability to ease inflammation or numb the nerves around an injury (it's likely a combination of both). However, the Nia also sheds light on the dangers that accompany too much ice therapy, including weakened limb proprioception and increased muscle fatigue. Given this research, one should hesitate before deeming cryotherapy as the ultimate solution to any injury, and consider it a short-term treatment rather than a long-term cure.
Due to the limited research available and the clear need for a better alternative, I would say it depends on the severity of the injury. For me, I hurt my ankle every now and then just being clumsy. Icing is an easy, quick, and accessible method of healing that you can obtain for yourself in the comfort of your own home. I would definitely just head to the kitchen and fix an ice pack for that hypothetical minor wound. However, if I was still in my athlete days, I would think twice.
As a former athletic trainer, I was surprised to see what the science has been saying about one of the key tools trainers use in dealing with injuries.
While ice seems to be ok for helping with pain management, it seems to be ineffective at best, and detrimental at worst in the healing process.
There are some new acronyms vying to replace RICE, but none seem to be the new gold standard. They all seem to rely around movement, exercise, compression and elevation, and analgesics for pain. Sometimes heat, even...
I never would have suspected before, but icing an injury seems to have no real benefits whatsoever, perhaps besides numbing the area to alleviate pain temporarily.
If icing does not reduce inflammation or speed the healing process, what is the point? It is tedious and often uncomfortable to apply.
Other than the pain associated with an injury, it seems that the icing method, which has become the most common form of dealing with many athletic injuries, does little to actually heal. As a matter of fact, icing may actually be prohibiting healing in a number of ways.
Icing the injury actually slows down the healing process rather than expediting it. Additionally, it does not do much to reduce swelling/inflammation at the site of the injury either. Although ice application does seem to distract from the pain, this does not work towards actually healing the injury at its core and could actually be making the situation worse.
The most prominent deterrent of icing is the advocacy for alternative methods. the RICE method seems to be outdated in the present day as doctors are beginning to agree that it is movement not stationary icing that helps our muscles and joints heal properly. Ultimately, icing injuries is an ineffective method that gained undue support. People must turn away from their instinct to apply it and look to other options.
Although further research is required on the topic of cryotherapy, the current data provided in this Nia suggests that icing an injury is not the most beneficial method. The above research explains that, though icing may provide initial pain relief, it can in fact delay recovery.
I chose to vote anti-icing on this Nia because of the available alternatives to icing presented above. Among these options are MEAT (movement, exercise, analgesics, and treatment), METH (movement, elevation, traction and heat), and MCE (movement, compression and elevation). Since the science suggests that icing may not be as beneficial as we think, I believe the smarter option is to turn to one of these alternative methods in the hopes that one of them will reduce pain, swelling, and recovery time.