Many would agree that when you first get injured whether it be a sprain, broken bone, and or soft tissue damage that you want to ice it in order to decrease inflammation and swelling. You and I are on the same page there. However most people tend to stop icing after a few days… Maybe a week. In some cases I would say this is alright. In others I am going to tell you that your wrong. Lets examine that thought.
“Ice decreases inflammation and increases circulation” How can that be? Let me explain that circulation is not inflammation. Two completely different things. The definition of circulation is: orderly movement through a circuit; especially : the movement of blood through the vessels of the body induced by the pumping action of the heart. Meaning that there is no restrictions or very little. When a person has proper circulation and no restrictions it allows the body to “treat” any organ, bone, vessel that it needs to. Without proper circulation the body cannot heal correctly and there becomes little fractures in the healing system of the body. The definition of inflammation is: redness, swelling, pain, tenderness, heat, and disturbed function of an area of the body, especially as a reaction of tissues to injurious agents. Understand the difference? Proper circulation cannot occur in an injury to any form of tissue in the body.
Getting into some basics of the human body that I believe EVERYONE should know; when you look inside the body you will see different colours. Our muscles are what color? Red. Our tendons, ligaments, what color are they? whitish Pink. What color are our bones? White. Why are they all different colours and what does that mean? The best answer to that question is to ask you another question. What color is our blood? Obviously the answer is red. The three parts of anatomy I listed will tell you exactly which group gets more blood flow according to color. Our muscles are filled with blood, they have the most blood getting to them. Which means if there is an injury to the area, it is easy for the red and white blood cells to get there to stimulate healing. They heal relatively quickly when proper treatment is applied. Our tendons and ligaments have less blood flow, it takes a little longer for them to heal. Then there is bone. They have the least amount of circulation which is why they tend to heal the slowest. I hope I am starting to paint a good picture here for you.
When a person comes in for massage and they have now transitioned from acute pain to chronic pain, inflammation is still present. Inflammation and pain go hand in hand. It will determine if you get better, same or worse. The root word for inflammation comes from the word inflame. Inflame means heat/on fire. When you apply heat on top of an inflamed part of the body you are encouraging the inflammation to continue on. Chronic inflammation has also been linked to many different diseases, but where I want to focus is often chronic inflammation over time will start attacking healthy tissue along with unhealthy tissue. The pain gets worse, it spreads and starts affecting other areas. This is where your massage therapist comes in. It is our job to take a great case history. When the symptoms first started, what triggered it? What you do for a living [maybe your job irritates the area] What do you do in your down time? What relieves your pain? What makes it worse? Its our job to stimulate a healing response and decrease pain. Sometimes that involves breaking down scar tissue that no longer needs to be there and/or to stimulate circulation. We give you a boost. We give your muscles, tendons and ligaments a reminder of what they need to do to be healthy again. Afterwards it’s your job to keep facilitating that boost of healing until you see us again. How you do that is by icing at night. [bean bags, rice bags do not get cold enough. It’s a waste of time do not use those] When dishes are done, shovelling, or lawn maintenance is done. Laundry and kids are done, that is when you are going to get out your ice treatment. For those that handle cold well you’ll always put one layer between you and the ice. Your goal is to cool the area. Not freeze it. Your also going to ice for as long as you can. [No twenty minutes on twenty minutes off. We are not wanting primary a lymphatic response. We want an immune system response.] Whether your down time is watching tv, laying down in bed. Get comfortable. Falling asleep with it is even better. If you do not handle cold well, there are options. Put 2-3 layers in-between you and that ice pack. You’ll want to be able to still receive cooling benefits, but it should never be painful or discomforting. Otherwise you will hate it and the body will begin an unhealthy response to it. Every 3-5 days you can remove a layer. You will find that the body gets used to the coolness and will respond appropriately when you remove that layer. It will not be painful. Most of the time, the clients that did as directed [They did their homework and following their treatment plan and not deviating from it] come back and explain how much better they are doing. It is because they are decreasing the inflammation and increasing circulation which brings more oxygen, red blood cells and white blood cells to the affected area which equals faster healing. They hold the results from their massage longer. They are less tired because their body isn’t using so much energy to stay in the inflamed state. They can begin having a better quality of life.
Tonight, if your one of the ones that suffer from chronic pain. Give this method a try. Ice at the very end of your day and then go to bed. No more putzin around. If you do, then you will just start the inflammation response again. Go to bed when your in a decreased state of inflammation. Turn off your bed warmer otherwise you will undo the work you just started. It may take a few days… Maybe a week or two to start noticing a difference depending on your body. But I promise you, your body will start thanking you.
Counter indications for using ice are: Rheumatoid arthritis [you can cool the body down, but for short periods at a time. No ice. Cooler showers but not uncomfortable is one way] raynauds disease. These are just two, if you do have a disease make sure you are well educated and know all the beneficial treatments and ones that would make your symptoms worse