Never Ice an Injury or Take Anti-inflammatories

Never Ice an Injury or Take Anti-inflammatories

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.

Related - 10 Ways to Recover Like a Boss From Brutal Workouts

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 athletes - 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!

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      Marc Lobliner - January 11, 2019

      Did you see the references in the article?

      Marc Lobliner - January 11, 2019

      Indeed, it’s common sense BUT we have been lied to this whole time!

      Matt Skaien - January 11, 2019

      Care you provide sources please.

      Steve Reinhard - January 11, 2019

      Remember Mark talking about this before. Cut it all out at this point. Definitely feel better.

      Devin Foley - January 11, 2019

      Do NFL players not take ice baths anymore?

      Aliya Tudor - January 11, 2019

      Interesting. My physical therapist recommended I ice my back after those first few sessions when the pain was most intense. I prefers hot epsom salt baths for DOMS. I swear by it!

      Kinkoshinkai - January 11, 2019

      It’s a slow process getting the athletic training community to accept this. All the icing and anti-inflammatories do is reduce pain. They do NOT promote healing.
      It’s what I call “CYA” medicine. (I’ve read all the recent studies, btw.) But doctors, especially family doctors, are more interested in not getting sued than they are healing. They don’t MIND a slower healing process as long as you don’t sue them because you’re in pain. Athletic trainers deal with a more committed population, and even there it’s a slow shift to the new research being accepted.

      Robert Paffe - January 11, 2019

      Agree with the ice, it’s often over done. Aside from the temporary pain relief, lowering swelling is often the primary purpose. Most often people do not use medication properly. Depending on the injury, compression, heat, stretching, are great suggestions.

      Robert Paffe - January 11, 2019

      If its a general doctor I’m not surprised. Go see an ortho specialist and I’m sure the recommendation will change.

      Jason Martin - January 11, 2019

      So why is my doctor is telling me to take a max dose of ibuprofen and ice 15 mins every hour for my foot injury? This seems like important information that a doctor should know.

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