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Should you ice post-injury?

To ice or not to ice?

Courtesy of Samia Gomez, Qualified Sports Therapist and Director at Clinic4Sport 

There has been much debate in recent times surrounding this topic. Ice is a commonly used treatment in sports medicine and acute injury rehab, so it comes as no surprise that most athletes will instantly reach for the ice pack following an injury. However, treatment techniques are continually changing based on new research, which can cause confusion around whether ice is good, bad, or indifferent for injuries.

The initial intention behind ice was to minimise the inflammatory response in an attempt to increase the speed of healing. It dates back to 1978 when the term RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) was established – meaning this protocol was embedded in our culture for over 20 years.

What does this mean for ice?

While ice has shown to significantly reduce pain due to its direct impact on the skin’s temperature, its effect on underlying muscles is next to nothing. Most people report that ice makes their injuries “feel better” in the short-term, but what impact does immediately icing an injury have in the long-term?

When we injure ourselves, our body responds by transmitting signals to our inflammatory cells which release the hormone insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1). These cells initiate healing by killing off damaged tissue. So, applying ice may actually be preventing the body’s natural release of IGF-1 and therefore delaying the healing process.

Ice has recently been replaced from the injury management process with PEACE & LOVE, the latest and most comprehensive acronym which stands for Protection, Elevation, Avoid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, Compression, Education & Load, Optimism, Vascularisation and Exercise.

So, should you use ice to temporarily numb pain if it delays healing?

Most recent findings indicate that ice is not as important as clinicians once thought, so I recommend keeping the ice pack in the freezer (for the most part).

Clinic4Sport is an established Sports Injury Clinic at The Lensbury offering specialist treatment for a wide range of services to help get you back to sport sooner. Click here to learn more or book your injury treatment appointment at Clinic4Sport.


The content in this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a sports therapist of healthcare professional.