To this day, when a kid gets injured a coach will say, “Put some ice on it.”
Thank goodness a lot of coaches and trainers follow me because of my mediocre bodybuilding career and EXOS trainer status. I am about to help young athletes speed recovery. Exponentially.
By the time you finish this article, you will have thrown away the ice packs (unless trying to keep your NaturaLyte™-laced drinking water cold) and toss that hepatoxic anti-inflammatory garbage. If you want to help speed your own recovery, and if you’re a coach, speed up the recovery of your athlete recovery - and sound like a genius to the parents of these young athletes - read on.
I am about to drop some ice and make it rain knowledge!
Icing an injury has been clinically shown to reduce pain, but only temporarily (Hubbard et al 2004). Other than some cellular-level, anti-inflammatory effects in animals, it has been shown to do nothing beyond momentary relief in humans.
Yup, nothing. No benefit at all.
Bear with me, I’m going to explain this in layman terms since if too sciency. The message will be lost and you’ll end up watching “Captain Underpants” instead of reading this epic piece.
Inflammation is a good thing. It is the body’s built-in response to getting rid of the “toxic” materials and through increased blood flow, AKA vasodilation, and it aims to move the nasty stuff out of there.
Think of it as your body’s way of flooding the area and dispersing the junk. Like peeing in a swimming pool. Sure, there is pee in there, but it’s a very small percentage of overall liquid, so it’s not a big deal. The body is aiming to dilute and move.
So, icing and preventing this toxin-removal is not only counter-productive, it makes no sense in even a common-sense world.
The same goes for anti-inflammatories.
When you take an anti-inflammatory, realize they work, and they work very well. Just as we learned above, we WANT inflammation. Thus, don’t take this garbage.
Not to mention they have a super-high hepatoxicity level… Meaning they are very bad for liver health.
Swelling also serves other purposes:
- 1) Restricts movement to prevent further injury.
- 2) Allows inflammation and blood flow to progress clearing the yucky stuff.
In fact, due to some potential lymphatic issues beyond the scope of this article, icing might even increase and prolong swelling, but not in the good way (Meeusen & Lievens 1986).
So, we are left with all these things do is potentially hinder recovery BUT they do help manage pain. If you have an athlete in pain, here are some alternatives to help them cope with the pain of a sprain or strain:
- 1) Massage: If the injury is akin to a hamstring strain or similar, light massage will increase the blood flow and help remove toxins. Massage is highly recommended by yours truly for all kinds of recovery. Do not go so hard as to cause more damage to the area. Light and for try to massage with pressure toward the heart (in the direction of the glute if hamstring for example) and lighter going away from the heart.
- 2) Breathing: Controlling deep breaths through the nose in, and breathe slowly out through the nose or mouth will calm the athlete and help manage the pain.
- 3) Light compression: VERY light, mainly for the warmth.
I hope this helps you out! Please share with the training community and please discuss below!