In 1978 Doctor Gabe Mirkin coined the term RICE. The term stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. Since 1978 RICE has become the standard for treatment of athletic injuries. Now new research is melting the ice and questioning whether ice should be used at all for athletic injuries.
Ice helps control inflammation, reduce pain and swelling. It was thought that this would help speed recovery form injuries. New research is suggesting that the inflammatory response is an important part of recovery after injury.
Inflammation is an complex immune response. During the inflammatory process blood flow to the damaged tissue is increased. Cells that are important to recovery are sent to the damaged tissue. Macrophages help clean out broken cells, scour any invading bacteria and release hormones that stimulate the regrowth of tissues.
The application of ice to the tissue reduces blood flow by constricting blood vessels. The blood vessels remain closed for hours after the application of ice. This decrease in blood flow slows the healing process and can cause permanent nerve damage.
A study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research examined the influence of icing on muscle damage. The study showed that icing delays recovery time. After icing there was an immediate increase in swelling without out the same benefits of the inflammatory process.
Another research article published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine in June, 2013, said that icing did relieved swelling but that it did not make recovery from muscle damage quicker. The research suggested that any treatment that reduces inflammation will delay healing. This includes standard anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen and steroids.