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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      Scott Johnston - October 16, 2019

      Im glad i stumbled across this article. Been doing so many things wrong for so many years. Ive applied these concepts to injuries I’ve sustained since reading it and i must say its spot on. Makes me wonder what other wise tails i have engrained that are false.

      Rory Ellis - January 24, 2019

      This is perfect! I’ve been telling my wife for years to stop taking ibuprofen. This article breaks it down so well that I think she may actually listen haha. Great stuff Marc 👍🏼

      PJ VanEmmerik - January 11, 2019

      Your references are very weak in this article. I’ve found several more recent that 1986 that say NSAIDS do not alter skeletal muscle healing.

      Jason Mack - January 11, 2019

      What about shin splints? Let it go away on its own?

      Jason Mack - January 11, 2019

      I believe those are taken for a different purpose. “The general theory behind this cold therapy is that the exposure to cold helps to combat the microtrauma (small tears) in muscle fibers and resultant soreness caused by intense or repetitive exercise.” Not really from healing an injury.

      Jennifer Mitchell - January 11, 2019

      Was never a fan of ice, when sore i just hit that area again to help heal. So for chest i would hit chest press or dips to add new blood to help revover

      Marc Lobliner - January 11, 2019

      Glad I could help!!!

      John Hennessy - January 11, 2019

      Wow! Just learned something new. I never knew that you were not suppose to try and treat inflammation. I always believe that it was a bad sign.

      Brennen Pacheco - January 11, 2019

      Yes, this is a lesson that the entire medical community needs to realize. The human body is an intelligent self-regulating machine. It does what it needs to do for a reason! Any “remedy” to get rid of the symptoms of this process is short sighted. There are literally thousands of examples of this in medicine outside of weight training, and most of the time the doctor does more harm than good. Trust the body!

      Marc Lobliner - January 11, 2019

      That’s why I am here to help!

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