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November 23, 2016

Injuries - To ice or not to ice?

Written by: Matthew Wagner, L.Ac., M.S.O.M.

The Chinese Medicine perspective is ice should be used very sparingly, if at all. In TCM speak we say that ice blocks the flow of yang. This yang is the body’s vitality, its ability to move substances in and out of a damaged area, and consequently, its ability to effectively heal. 

Western sports medicine is starting to realize this, as well. In fact, the original proponent of icing after injury, the man who actually coined the acronym R.I.C.E (Rest Ice Compression Elevation), has changed his own position on the matter, and has said that the use of ice in injury often prevents healing. In fact, it can do more harm than good. See what he has to say about it http://www.drmirkin.com/fitness/why-ice-delays-recovery.html

Instead of icing, Chinese Medicine will use acupuncture, topical herbal patches, and sometimes, herbal medicine for internal consumption. Acupuncture is very effective at relieving pain from muscle and fascia adhesions, such as trigger points and knots, especially in deep, hard to reach muscles. These adhesions cause not only pain, but also limited range of motion or overall mobility. An easy example is headache with difficulty turning the head from side to side, or, shoulder or hip pain, which changes how you walk. Acupuncture is great for these cases of chronically overworked and spastic muscles.

Herbal patches and plasters are often used topically to treat bruised tissue. These herbs used in patches and plasters (typically seen in martial arts) will promote the body’s ability to move stagnant blood and lymph from the area, allowing new, healthy blood to enter. This is much more effective than using ice to cause the tissue to constrict. In fact, the use of ice will make it harder for the body to move the blood and lymph, and will only prolong     the time it takes to heal.

Cupping therapy for pain relief

Cupping is also used to move stagnant fluids in the body. The vacuum created by the cup helps create space between the muscles and fascia, drawing old blood out of an area. When new blood is allowed to enter, the area can more quickly and effectively heal. Cupping is a very effective form of maintenance in any training program, as it helps to keep the body limber and free of injury. This is why it’s been so popular lately in highly competitive settings, such as the Olympicshttp://time.com/4443105/cupping-rio-olympics-michael-phelps/