Ice, injury and why ice is still good – Hams Fitness, Expert Personal Training

Ice, injury and why ice is still good – Hams Fitness, Expert Personal Training


You hurt your ankle playing volleyball…you reach for the ice because it hurts like a Beeeeatch. Guess what? It helps reduce the pain. Win.


It does this through a mechanism called the Pain Gate Theory whereby the body has a hard time sensing both pain and temperature at the same time (within reason), it chooses to sense the ice for a period of time over the pain.


Icing is good for pain relief of acute injury. Win.


Recently there appears to be a trend of bashing the use of ice to reduce inflammation (most notably from Mobility WOD and this video for starters,).



Before we go any further I feel I should note that I personally find the use of ice for anything other than temporary pain relief from mild to moderate injury to be a mistake as they do too. My question stems from their logic and their replacement for ice.

I use ice for short term pain control instead of using pain killers when needed: like now, I fell over (again) whilst dog walking a while ago and jarred my shoulder which hurts in certain movements now quite severely. I have had enough medication snake through my system over the years to feel justified in doing what I can to avoid it at all costs at this stage in my life. To manage shoulder pain and recovery at the moment I am alternating short periods of icing for pain relief and periods of heat application, along side deep breathing (more on that in a while) exercises to facilitate the recovery process.

The above video makes a few bold statements and recommendations that are questionable, so I am questioning them.


1) Interrupting the bodies natural immune response (inflammation in this case) that has developed over millions of years, is a mistake and icing interrupts it so they advise not to ice. After all; how could we do a better job of recovery than a refined biological process? I agree. Mostly.

2) They say that drainage of the swelling is a problem that needs addressing and can only be accomplished through active movement due to muscle action (movement) and that immobilisation is a bad thing. I disagree. Sort of.


Lets have a look at this with a logical mind.


1) I agree, apart from when using ice for pain relief of an acute/severe injury.


The human body has evolved to clear up after itself, when something is broken and in need of repair, it fixes it very efficiently most of the time. Evolution is usually smarter than us and we are grateful for this. Having to find ways to heal after each stress would consume our lives if we had to help the body every time it needed to respond to injury or stress!

So we agree on point one, inflammation is good, interruption of this is bad.

SO after strongly advising against interruption of the swelling process they then immediately proceed to advise compression of the area to reduce swelling….erm anyone else see an inconsistency here? Just me? Nope….thought not.

Don’t interrupt swelling as that is bad…but do interrupt it with compression…did I mention that they happen to sell specialist compression bands? Fishy.




2) Firstly, drainage of lymph is not mainly or only mitigated by muscle action as they suggest. Lymphatic drainage is mainly a function of breathing (diaphragmatic action), yup, plain old breathing is the main “pump” for the lymphatic system and is assisted by muscle action…much the same way the blood circulatory system works. Novel.


So active muscle movement is not the only way to clear swelling fluid, it is a secondary way. Yes movement of an injured area is important for recovery but immobilisation is also important else you further damage a serious injury. Immobilise when you have to and move when you can. As it always has been. No wheels being reinvented any time soon.


They also make a point of saying how clearing of the swelling is a problem the body needs help with, which is a little inconsistent with their earlier claim that the body has evolved the immune response over millions of years and needs no interruption from us…but it does with this part of it, so they say. Strange.


For the most part I like the video, it is just hard to lend credibility when there is such an obvious gap in the argument and logic.


Yes, lots of studies may show that physiological recovery on a molecular level is hindered with ice, however, recovery is as much psychological as it is physical and if ice helps someone have the confidence to regain use of an injured body part than get freezing buddy because ice can be cool, yes indeedy.  

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